Job Candidate Disclosing Why They Quit a Job – Ask #HR Bartender

Hr Bartender - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 02:57

One of the most common questions asked during an interview is “Why did you leave your last job?”. Today’s reader wants to know the best way to answer that question. 

Hi, just found your blog. I wanted to get your advice on how to respond to prospective employers regarding the reason why I left my senior position. The real truth of the matter is that we got a new boss with whom I had some integrity issues – we did not seem to see things in the same light.

After 10 years on the job, I felt it was better for me to accept the package and move on. I also signed a separation agreement. How can I explain this without trashing my former employer?

I wish I could say that there’s always one absolutely right answer in this situation. Since there are different considerations, I reached out to two respected colleagues to get their thoughts. Hannah Morgan (aka Career Sherpa) is a well-known job search, career and social media strategist.  She’s the author of “The Infographic Resume” and a regular contributor at U.S. News & World Report. Recruiting Animal (and yes, that might be his real name) is the host of the wildly popular Recruiting Animal show (broadcast live every Wednesday at 12n Eastern). He’s also a professional recruiter.

When asked about the reason you’ve left a job, is it okay to mention unflattering things about a former employer? Why or why not?

[Morgan] Let’s first address the reason employers ask candidates why they left their previous jobs. Employers want to know if the candidate was forced to leave due to performance issues or was downsized due to no fault of their own. Asking this question helps employers weed out ‘potentially problem’ employees.

Since candidates are usually on their best behavior during an interview, it can be difficult to see problematic behaviors first-hand. During the interview, the employer listens for any signs that the candidate is unhireable. Employers are listening for a pattern of leaving jobs and blaming it on bad bosses or companies. If a candidate has had several jobs in a short period of time and blames bad managers, it’s likely that the problem isn’t the managers. The common denominator is the candidate and a sign of a problem employee or an employee who hasn’t learned how to evaluate future bosses.

That being said, it is never advisable to bad-mouth or mention unflattering things about a former boss, employee or company. In fact, it is unprofessional. Some might call it character assassination or slander to say negative things about other people. No matter how awful or unfairly you were treated, never divulge that information. It only makes you, the candidate, look bad.

[Animal] Recruiters hate it when a candidate bad-mouths an old boss. They say that it’s not professional. They want you to lie or obfuscate. I agree in part. You shouldn’t go into an interview and say ‘I wish that a**hole would die a painful death. He has it coming’ or ‘I wish I could be the one to pull the switch.’

While that might be how you feel, you can’t admit that you have a hate-on for anybody because you’re supposed to have control of your emotions. But you should be straightforward about policy differences if they were the reason for leaving.

People usually say they left for ‘philosophical differences’ but that could mean anything and it’s clearly just a dodge. If the differences you had with your old boss involve sensitive issues for your old company, you could say that you had policy differences and would prefer to discuss how you fit with the new job in the early stages of the hiring process. Leave a discussion about the details of your differences with your old employer until the new employer is serious about you as a candidate.

I remember the case of an accountant who was pressured to sign off on some creative bookkeeping by his famous, aggressive CEO and CFO. They all ended up going to jail. He should have left the company and had no fear of explaining exactly why he did so. There is no shame in it and you don’t want to work for a company that cannot appreciate that.

In this scenario, the employee talks about integrity issues with their boss. For a moment, let’s just say the boss is a jerk. It’s not really about something ethical. Is it okay to say during an interview that “the boss and I just don’t get along”? Why or why not?

[Morgan] If your boss was a jerk, that’s your opinion. And just because you didn’t get along with him or her doesn’t mean others can’t. If your boss was unethical, sexually harassed you, or did something else illegal, that’s up to HR and law enforcement to resolve. It doesn’t belong in the job interview. As unfair as it sounds, employers are more likely to side with the past employer/boss than the candidate who sounds disgruntled or unable to cope.

Rather than try and explain the ins and outs of your relationship with your jerky boss or complicated ethics violations, it’s better to gloss over that detail and stay focused on the bigger reason of why you left – more rewarding work, more relaxed work environment, better pay, more challenging career or whatever you were looking for when you decided to leave. Taking ownership of your career shows an optimistic, can-do attitude and that’s what employers want.

[Animal] Presumably, you left just because you didn’t like her personality? I don’t think that’s likely if she did everything else well. If someone has an unpleasant personality, it’s bound to be reflected in her management style and you could focus on that rather than her personality. This means that you could describe your differences as management issues rather than simply personality. If the old boss shouted at people or made inappropriate comments, you should say so. But you have to ask that the recruiter promises to keep your remarks very confidential.

You could also say that you were looking for a change of culture. When they ask what you mean, you could describe the personality, so to speak, of the kind of place you are looking for. Maybe you want to work with people who talk about the non-fiction books they are reading instead of sitcoms. Or maybe you want to work with people who are more upbeat in the mornings. You might not have to say that your boss is a low-brow drinker, who has endless family problems, and drags herself into the office looking like death warmed over every morning.

The reader didn’t ask, but let’s say the reason they left was because they were terminated. Should the candidate be 100 percent truthful about the matter (even if they don’t agree with the reason they were fired)?

[Morgan] There’s a big difference between being fired and laid off in the eyes of employers. It’s probably best not to use either term because of the negative connotation each has.

If you were laid off, use downsized, position eliminated or impacted by a reduction in force. In the reader’s question above, if there was a reduction in force and an opportunity to leave with a severance package, then the candidate can take the answer one step further and spin the situation into a positive to help ease the future employer’s mind. For example:

“After 10 years with the same company, I decided it was time for a change and took the separation package. This gave me time to reassess what I want to do next and look for my next great assignment.”

On the other hand, if an employee is fired because of something they did wrong, it’s referred to as being terminated for cause. It’s possible, during a background check, that this information can be verified. The prospective employer may ask if the ex-employee is eligible for rehire or the reason for termination. When an employee is laid off it usually means they are eligible for rehire. However, someone who was fired, would not be eligible for rehire. Since this information could be discovered, it is best to be truthful about being fired.

If a candidate was fired, they should simply state that he/she was let go or dismissed. Then the candidate can explain what they learned from being fired. This brief explanation helps the employer understand the situation and hopefully believes that it won’t happen again. For example, the response might sound like this:

“I was let go from my last job. I didn’t do my best work or make the best decisions then. But I now realize how important it is to my team and supervisor to be accountable and on time. This has taught me a valuable lesson and in my next job, I look forward to being an employee that others can rely on.”

[Animal] If you think that there are some things that reflect poorly on you that would not come out unless you, personally, reveal them then leave those things out because they would probably be insignificant details.

But if that’s not the case, then the candidate would have to acknowledge her errors and show quite clearly that she has learned her lesson. The candidate might need to be prepared to take a lesser job at a lower salary. Organizations might be willing to help individuals rebuild their reputations if they get a good deal. Example: I know a guy who was fired because he was too slow on the job. It was easy to believe because he spoke as slow as molasses in everyday conversation. He would have to admit that he realized he needed a job that did not require a lot of quick action.

One more thing…If you don’t agree with the reason you were fired, then you have to prepare a strong case and present it in a calm, reasonable manner. And it has to be a solid case. If you present a biased and distorted view of things by brushing aside your obvious errors, no one will consider you.

I want to extend a huge thanks to Recruiting Animal and Hannah Morgan for sharing their thoughts on this topic. These two professionals sit at different places in the hiring process and have different relationships with candidates. While their styles might be very different, their advice wasn’t.

Today’s post is one of those that I would bookmark for future reference. You know at some point, a friend, family member, or colleague is going to ask you this question.

Images captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the world.

The post Job Candidate Disclosing Why They Quit a Job – Ask #HR Bartender appeared first on hr bartender.

Categories: Blogs

First Look: Leadership Books for December 2018

Leadershipnow - Sat, 12/01/2018 - 09:07
Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in December 2018. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases.

  Chief Joy Officer: How Great Leaders Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear by Richard Sheridan
  Master Your Mind: Counterintuitive Strategies to Refocus and Re-Energize Your Runaway Brain by Roger Seip and Robb Zbierski
  Great Mondays: How to Design a Company Culture Employees Love by Josh Levine
  Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation by Gary Shapiro
  The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

For bulk orders call 1-626-441-2024

Build your leadership library with these specials on over 39 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”
— Lemony Snicket

Categories: Blogs

The Challenges GM Is Facing, and the Reasoning Behind Its Plant Closures

Harvard business - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 14:52
Alistair Berg/Getty Images

General Motor’s announcement that it plans to idle five North American factories and cut 14,000 jobs has sparked much discussion in the media and outrage in Washington. While the job losses are a terrible blow to those workers and the families they support and the local economies where the factories are located, the decision could prevent the kind of crisis that resulted in it seeking bankruptcy protection in 2009 and a $50 billion bailout by the U.S. government. It is far better for GM to reallocate sources now, while it is healthy, than to wait until it is trouble. And the same applies to the affected workers: The tight labor market means there are opportunities for those who go through retraining.

GM has good immediate reasons for its decisions. Car sales in the U.S. had a boom period thanks to all individuals and businesses who deferred buying new vehicles during the Great Recession. But car sales are now probably past a cyclical peak, not only in the U.S. but in China as well, and there is too much global auto-assembly capacity chasing that demand. Another problem is demand for small and mid-size cars in the U.S. has plunged, and consumers haven’t been flocking to buy GM’s hybrid Chevy Volt.

All those factors have been taking a heavy toll on the plants in question. For example, the Lordstown, Ohio, factory that makes the Chevy Cruze is running one shift a day, down from three a few years ago, and last year produced 180,000 vehicles, down from 248,000 in 2013. Capital-intensive factories have a high-fixed-cost, low-variable-cost operating model. If you greatly reduce the production volume, the cars that do come out have to absorb more of the fixed costs, and that eventually sends the product into a profitability death spiral. Every day GM operates such factories, it expends more resources that could be redeployed elsewhere.

Another issue involves reallocating resources in the face of fundamental market shifts. When and how are the best ways to do it? These questions that doesn’t get asked enough. It’s important because companies build assets and capabilities to deliver products and services to a market of consumers that values them at some point in time. But markets and tastes shift, and changing assets and company processes is hard. Given the shift in immediate U.S. demand from small and medium-size sedans to to light trucks and SUVs and the long-term need for GM to make the transition to electric and self-driving cars, I think that GM is smart to act now while its cash flow can sustain the shutdown of these facilities and reinvestment in new products.

Then there is the question of how to reallocate assets. Many firms — and GM is a notable example — have used bankruptcy as a way to shed assets. When it initiated the process during the heights of the Great Recession, it eliminated the Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Saturn, and Hummer brands, along with countless other obsolete assets. GM also used bankruptcy as a way to get out of dealer agreements, renegotiate labor contracts, and sweep away decades of ways of working that were no longer in step with the market’s needs.

I believe a far-better path is to restructure the operations in question way before they threaten the company’s survival. That is what GM is trying to do. Another way to do this is to sell off pieces that no longer are sustainable to someone who has the political ability to restructure them. A major rationale for a great deal of outsourcing activity has been to put assets in the hands of somebody who can restructure them. The Detroit Big Three did this with a significant portion of their component operations.

A separate question that the GM announcement raises is who is responsible for retraining the displaced workers and helping them to find a new way to support their families? The tragedy in America is that there is no consensus among leaders in business and government. Should retraining be a public or a private good? Most employers no longer seem to take primary responsibility for this, and the debate at different levels of government tends to confound the question with the provision of “welfare.” As is the case with education, I think it is a public good. Both individuals and companies benefit, as do the communities around them.  A capable workforce with up-to-date skills makes a community or region attractive to prospective employers. What is gratifying is local leadership at the grassroots level is finding effective solutions for retraining — the topic of a recent article I coauthored.

So, all in all, it is better for both GM and the affected workers that it is acting now rather than waiting until the problem gets worse. Yes, the workers have a tough road ahead of them. But they should ask themselves whether they are better off holding on to an unsustainable job as long as possible or trying to change now? I learned from my jobs in industry that most problems don’t get better over time; this one almost certainly won’t.

Categories: Blogs

LeadershipNow 140: November 2018 Compilation

Leadershipnow - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 12:40

Here are a selection of tweets from November 2018 that you don't want to miss:
See more on Twitter.

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Like us on Instagram and Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

Categories: Blogs

Helping Remote Workers Avoid Loneliness and Burnout

Harvard business - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 08:00
Kolbz/Getty Images

It’s a weekday and Jeff, the director of technology at Economical Insurance, kisses his daughter and waves goodbye as she enters the doors of her public school. Then, he either turns the car around and returns home for a day of remote work, or he continues on to his office, where his hours are flexible — he just needs to keep his boss in the loop.

In 1871, when Economical was founded, Jeff’s employer might not have imagined this scenario. Today, HR policies like these are less of a progressive perk but more of a standard practice. Actually, a new study interviewed 18,000 employees across 96 international companies and found that 70% of employees are working remotely once a week and 53% are spending half the week away from the office.

Flexible and remote work policies are becoming increasingly popular with employees. A study focused on flexibility and its impact on performance for working parents confirmed that flexibility at work increased gratitude significantly. It also increased job satisfaction and decreased stress, particularly for parents with children at home.

Employees appreciate remote work and flexible hours because they offer tangible benefits. It’s not just the time saved on commuting — there are real financial upsides. A study that looked at data from job boards and the U.S. Bureau of Labor found that the average remote worker saved $444 on gas, and spent roughly 50% less on lunches. Most parents can also save on childcare costs if they can arrange their schedules to be at home when their children are out of school.

You and Your Team Series Remote Work

As more employees want to take advantage of flex and remote work options, organizations are accepting that this is how today’s talent wants to work. The 2018 Future Workforce Report by Upwork claims 63% of U.S. employers are offering some form of flex option. For example, PwC came up with “All Roles Flex” in an effort to reduce the stigma of those who use it. In a recent interview, Dorothy Hisgrove, the partner and Chief People Officer at PwC Australia, told me: “At PwC, 82% of our people use some form of flexibility. They’re most successful when they have the everyday flexibility they need to meet the demands of their professional life and accomplish the things they identify as priorities outside of their career.”

As more workers work flexibly or remotely, companies will need to change the way they operate. “It forces structural and systemic change to accommodate different ways of working and different ways of being ‘available’ and productive,” says Hisgrove. Remote and flex work also present new challenges for managers.  In particular, I call your attention to two: burnout and loneliness.


One risk, perhaps unexpectedly, is burnout. People using flex or remote policies often do feel more grateful to their employers. That feeling of indebtedness can lead some remote employees to keep their foot on the gas until they run out of fuel. A research paper titled “Doing More with Less? Flexible Working Practices and the Intensification of Work” examines this unanticipated consequence of adopting flexible working practices. Using social exchange theory, researchers suggest, “employees respond to the ability to work flexibly by exerting additional effort, in order to return benefit to their employer.” Some of the intensification happens at the employee level (choices they make to “return the favor”) but frequently, it’s the employer intensifying the workload with requests that can’t be accomplished within certain timeframes.

To ensure employees experience gratitude rather than indebted servitude, check in. Go beyond project updates and work-related conversations. Leaders need to know what is going on with their people beyond just their work. For example, be sensitive to employees who travel extensively. Rather than booking them into scores of meetings on their return, give them some time to reconnect with family and recharge.

Rethink which attributes constitute going “above and beyond.” Working longer hours, answering emails late at night, putting time in on the weekend, coming in sick, piling up vacation days, not sleeping — those attributes are way too often considered “high-performing” traits. However, all it does is increase and reward the behaviors of burn out. Instead, lead by example and encourage  your virtual staff to slow down (even when they don’t want to) by supporting mental-health breaks, taking vacations, and spending time with family.

Remember, remote employees are tougher to diagnose with burnout because you can’t see changes in their personality on a day-to-day basis. Ensure there is a process of checking in and being aware of the signs.


According to the 2018 State of Remote Work, loneliness is the biggest struggle to working remotely. Although being alone is not the only cause of loneliness, it can be a significant contributor. It’s also a dangerous and growing epidemic that scientists are taking seriously.

At the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad from Brigham Young University presented the results of 148 studies with a total of 308,849 participants. The study laid out the connection between loneliness and premature mortality. “There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” Holt-Lunstad shared.

What can managers do? One option would be to establish an “in-the-office” day, when remote employees are encouraged to come in. According to a Gallup poll of 9,917 employed U.S. adults, remote workers that come in to work at least once per week are the happiest. These “mostly” remote workers report a slightly higher rate of engagement, but more importantly, they were more likely than full-remote or full-office workers to say they had a best friend at work, and that their job included opportunities to learn and grow.

For further-flung members of the team who can’t come in weekly, make the investment to bring them to the office monthly or quarterly. Joe Granato, the Chief Supply Chain Officer at Mountain Equipment Co-op, told me that he believes it should be mandatory to find the budget to gather in person. “Face-to-face time builds quality relationships, thus enabling trust and speed in communications. Having opportunities to be together (in the same space, not virtually) is a quality investment.” Granato also advocates for a “working remotely code” to help level-set expectations and make everyone feel looped in to the strategy.

Today’s flexible and remote work arrangements are far more fluid than the rigid “flex plan” policies of yesteryear. Regardless of what HR policies may dictate, in a tight labor market, managers are going to do what keeps their people. Today, that likely includes more flexible work options, paired with a management style that helps remote workers flourish.

Categories: Blogs

What a Toys “R” Us Comeback Could Look Like

Harvard business - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 07:00
Imgorthand/Getty Images

Toys “R” Us is being resurrected for the holiday season. After filing for bankruptcy protection from creditors in September 2017, it closed all its stores in the United States and United Kingdom earlier this year. But on November 13, 2018, Judge Keith Phillips of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Virginia, signed off on a bankruptcy plan that revealed that investors intended to use the company’s brands in various ways. An initial approach can be found inside 600 Kroger supermarkets, where there are pop-up toy stores called “Geoffrey’s Toy Box” after the company’s giraffe icon.

But the environment that caused the toy chain’s demise has not changed. It still must compete with Walmart, Target, and especially Amazon, a competition based on price and convenience that it could not win.

An HBR article that one of us (Joe) wrote a year ago made the case that retailers today face two choices: offer consumers time well saved or time well spent. Toys “R” Us failed at the former strategy in its first incarnation. In coming out of bankruptcy, the company must pursue a time-well-spent strategy, offering places where both parents and their kids enjoy great experiences. (The Kroger pop-up stores are not promising: They offer no experiences, just boxes of toys.)

Here’s what Toys “R” Us should do now that it is freed of the shackles of bankruptcy and has a blank slate:

The underlying issue that set up Toys “R” Us for its collapse into commoditization is that it lost sight of whom it served. Its efforts primarily centered on its vendor relationships and pushing more and more product onto the floors and shelves of its stores.

For the reborn company to have a chance, it must turn 180 degrees and embrace a parent- and kid-centric strategy. It must become a stager of toy-playing experiences — enticing consumers into its new places by offering experiences that both parents and kids value. (What child wants to go to a warehouse? What child doesn’t want to play?) It should strive to maximize the time consumers spend in its places, because the longer they are there, the more they will buy. This is the essence of a time-well-spent strategy.

Imagine venues designed not around stocking toy packages with never-ending red-tag sales but around toys themselves with never-ending play experiences — one with spots where children can play with LEGO sets and participate in gaming tournaments. Imagine a testing lab where vendors pay to have children play with their latest and greatest toys. Imagine a studio where kids can design and create toys. Imagine becoming THE place for children’s birthday parties. (Surely Toys “R” Us could stage a far better experience than, say, Chuck E. Cheese’s, an experience that actually involves parents rather than shunting them off to the side.) In such venues, the warehouse would be in the back, out of consumers’ sight.

The absolute best way of knowing you’re providing time well spent is to charge admission for gaining entry to at least parts of the store — as the old Toys “R” Us once did for the Ferris wheel in its former flagship store in Times Square in New York City. (The old company smartly didn’t just get consumers to pay for admission, it also got suppliers to pay for their brands to be painted on the Ferris wheel’s cars.

In addition, Toys “R” Us could create a toy club that parents would value so much they’d pay a membership fee. Not like Costco or Sam’s Club memberships that merely provide access to low prices and thereby teaches consumers to buy on price, price, price. Instead, it could be a club that helps parents assess their children’s styles of play, their proclivities for creativity, curiosity, socialization, and all the other factors that enable them to grow socially, mentally, and even physically. The club’s fees could include the ability to return toys past their useful life or age-appropriateness and upgrade them via customized recommendations based on each individual child. Imagine becoming partners with parents in enhancing their parenting skills, invested in the well-being of their customers’ children.

By changing its business model to offer — and charge for — time well spent, the new Toys “R” Us can carve out a lasting and valued role in the toy business for decades to come. It can become the enterprise where a kid can be a kid.

Categories: Blogs

A Simple Way to Map Out Your Career Ambitions

Harvard business - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 06:05
franckreporter/Getty Images

It’s easy to be confused about how to grow in your career. My experience with even the most successful global companies is that they’re between average and poor at developing future talent. They’re often not transparent about your real needs and vague about the most effective development options.

The challenge is that you’re competing against every individual in your industry who wants to be a high performer. If you grow more capabilities more quickly than they do, you’ll perform better today, earn opportunities to perform better in the future, and a virtuous cycle will take hold. Development matters. So how can you chart the shortest, surest path to success?

Grow Yourself Faster
The research is clear about how we grow most successfully: it’s a combination of on-the-job, social, and formal learning, also known as the 70-20-10 model. This research-derived mantra says that roughly 70% of your professional growth will come from the work experiences you have, 20% will come from your interactions with others, and 10% will come from formal education.

Think of growth as a cycle — successfully perform, get feedback, and perform again even better. Experiences power that growth cycle, so you’ll want to understand which experiences matter most and gain as many of them as quickly as possible. To begin, you want to be very clear about your starting point and desired destination on that development journey — an obvious item that’s often missing from a development plan.

Two key steps to grow faster are:

  1. Determine your from/to.
  2. Get the experiences and create a personal experience map.

Determine Your From/To
If you want driving directions from Google Maps, your app asks you for two pieces of information: your current location and your desired location. The more precisely you enter each coordinate, the more likely you’ll get where you want to go using the fastest possible route. Your growth process should follow the exact same path, clearly specifying where you are today and your preferred destination.

Further Reading

The challenge for many of us is that we’re delusional about our actual origin and destination. We often think we’re starting far ahead of where we objectively are and that we’ve arrived when we’re still hundreds of miles from our goal. You can get to a more accurate assessment with a framework that my colleague Jim Shanley calls the “from/to.” The from/to is two brief statements — one describing where you are today and one describing your next big (not your ultimate) destination.

Examples of great from/to statements include:

  • From an individual contributor who adds value through technical expertise and closely follows others’ directions, to a people leader who creates a clear strategy and delivers results through a small team.
  • From a business strategist who can appear aloof and dismissive of those with less intellectual horsepower, to a general manager who aligns and inspires her region through personal connections and demonstrates genuine care for people.

The directness of those statements may surprise you. These from/to statements are real examples from successful executives who made tremendous progress once their needs were made this clear. Both of those leaders are now CEOs — one of a $10 billion retail chain and another of a specialty eyewear company.

To get an accurate from/to, you’ll need to check your ego at the door and ask some trusted superiors and colleagues for their extremely candid view of your origin and destination. Introduce the from/to concept to them, send them the from/to examples I gave earlier, and ask them to think about your from/to. Tell them to be brutally honest because their transparency will allow you to grow faster.

Use their input to create your final from/to. Which of their statements seem most direct and make you most uncomfortable? Is the “to” far enough away so that it will be a meaningful challenge to achieve? Whose opinion do you trust the most? With a clear from/to, you can now focus on accelerating your growth.

Create Your Personal Experience Map
Since the 70-20-10 ratio says that experiences best accelerate your development, you’ll want to understand which experiences will build your career and, more importantly, the few, most powerful experiences that can close your from/to gap. A regularly updated personal experience map will help you chart your path.

A personal experience map shows which experiences you want to acquire in the next two to five years to grow your career. It’s a practical planning document that describes how you will produce the highest-performing you.

There are two types of experiences that will accelerate your development — functional experiences and management experiences. Functional experiences help make you great at something, i.e. marketing, supply chain, R&D. They allow you to prove that you’re highly competent at what you do. Management experiences will help you prove that you can perform or manage in a variety of challenging situations. You’ve not only been a great marketer in one region, but proven that you can lead marketing when you have a new team, in a turnaround situation and in a different geography.

When you successfully achieve these challenging experiences, you prove to your company that you’re a versatile leader who deserves a chance for larger, more important roles. You can create your personal experience map after you:

Interview experts in your field.
The best and brightest in your field can help you understand which experiences will get you into the top 10% and become an expert. Interview those leaders to learn which experiences will build your functional excellence. The interviews will provide you with the raw material to create your personal experience map.

  • Identify experts inside and outside your company. Interview the best in your field, not just the best in your company. If you want to be a chief financial officer (CFO), identify five CFOs who you admire or who are well regarded in your industry. If your goal is to be great at early-stage pharma R&D, it’s the same process. Find the leaders on the industry “best” lists (best chief marketing officer, chief information officer, etc.), from their articles in trade magazines, on lists of speakers at relevant conferences, or from referrals of leaders in your company.
  • Request an interview. Email each leader, asking for an informal conversation in which they can help someone in their field develop.
  • Ask for insights. During your call, ask them, “What are the key functional experiences [not necessarily jobs] that you believe will produce the highest-quality [general manager, IT architect, finance director]? Or, “Describe what you would see on the résumé of someone who is outstanding at _______.” If you’re having trouble getting quality information, ask them about the most valuable experiences they’ve had in their own careers.

Build your map.
Review your interview notes and list the experiences that your interviewees described. Not everything you heard will be useful; some information will overlap or contradict what another interviewee said. Your goal is to sort through this information to find the few experiences that will most accelerate your career.

An experience should describe a meaningful business outcome — open a new production facility, lead a large team through a business turnaround, or close books for a business unit. It should be a significant building block of your functional or leadership capability; your accomplishment of it should mean something to others in your field.

The functional experiences you need to be a high performer will be unique to your profession, but the management experiences will be very similar across professions. Management experiences grow generic capabilities that are valuable to all managers, no matter their function. For simplicity, you can use these experiences when you create your map:

  • Life-cycle experiences: Lead in different parts of your company or product evolution: a turnaround situation, a startup, a steady-state environment, a developing market or a fully mature one.
  • Managing experiences: Upgrade a poor-quality team, lead a large team, manage a team where you have influence but not authority, lead in a matrixed environment, lead in a highly political environment.
  • Geographic experiences: Have experiences outside your home geography where the local language is not your native language.

Select four to seven functional experiences and three to four management experiences you believe will benefit you most and list them on your personal experience map. The map should be focused and realistic — a reference sheet that you’ll use regularly to plan your growth and assess your progress.

The personal experience map is now your guide to continuously grow your high-performing self. Creating it will be one of your best investments of time. Review the content of your map any time you switch jobs or companies and at least every six months to ensure that it remains a current, helpful guide.

Growing yourself faster isn’t easy but it’s made far simpler when you’re clear about your origin, your destination, and the fastest, experience-driven route between the two.

Categories: Blogs

Seeing the Data Is Not Understanding It – Friday Distraction

Hr Bartender - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 02:57

Every time I go to the eye doctor, I’m faced with the same situation. I know there’s a big “E” at the top of the eye chart. Not because I can see it clearly, but because I’ve memorized it. I always laugh that if they changed it, then I wouldn’t be able to read anything on the chart.

Today’s Time Well Spent from our friends at Kronos reminded me of my annual eye doctor visits. Just because you can see the numbers, or you’ve memorized them, doesn’t mean you understand them. It’s important for us to gain that additional level of comprehension.

Include education in onboarding. One of the best onboarding experiences I’ve ever had included meeting with the controller to learn how to read the company’s financial documents. Not only did we discuss the documents, but he spent time talking about what the organization focuses on (i.e. the specific line items). He shared information about what took place at the monthly financial review meeting and encouraged me to participate.

Ask questions. If we don’t understand something about the financials (or any document that the company produces), then ask. In many cases, these documents are tied to our personal goals (and possibly our bonus structure). Which means the organization finds the information necessary for success. I’ve always found that if I didn’t understand the information, someone else didn’t understand it either.

Discuss reports before deciding on them. I remember going to regular finance meetings where the controller would just launch into a discussion about action steps without reviewing the documents. He assumed that everyone had read the information (which they had). But reading the information and discussing it were two different things. Once he started adding a short discussion before taking action steps, the quality of the conversation improved.

Employees at every level of the organization need data and information to successfully do their work. But seeing the information and being able to analyze it are two different things. Organizations should think about how they can build data education into onboarding, training, and regular meetings so employees are able to become better critical thinkers.

The post Seeing the Data Is Not Understanding It – Friday Distraction appeared first on hr bartender.

Categories: Blogs

Personal Rebranding

Harvard business - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 15:27

Do you need a career makeover? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Dorie Clark, the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future. They talk through how to change your coworkers’ perception of you, transition to a role outside your area of expertise, or be seen as a leader.

Download this podcast
Listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe on the Dear HBR: page. Email your questions about your workplace dilemmas to Dan and Alison at

From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:

HBR: Reinventing Your Personal Brand by Dorie Clark — “Especially in the internet era, traces of your old brand will never completely disappear—and as long as you’re thoughtful about what you’ve learned along the way, that’s OK. The challenge is to be strategic about identifying how you wish to be perceived, developing a compelling story that explains your evolution, and then spreading that message.”

HBR: Be Seen as a Leader by Adam Galinsky and Gavin Kilduff — “Research tells us there are certain ‘competence cues,’ such as speaking up, taking the initiative, and expressing confidence, that suggest leadership potential. These proactive behaviors can be good indications that a person has useful expertise and experience, or they might simply reflect deep-seated personality traits such as extroversion and dominance. However, there’s increasing evidence that people can propel themselves into proactivity by temporarily shifting their psychological frame of mind.”

HBR: A Second Chance to Make the Right Impression by Heidi Grant — “If you started off on the wrong foot and need to overcome a bad impression, the evidence will have to be plentiful and attention-getting in order to activate phase two thinking. Keep piling it on until your perceiver can no longer tune it out, and make sure that the information you’re presenting is clearly inconsistent with the existing ideas about you.”

HBR: Rebounding from Career Setbacks by Mitchell Lee Marks, Philip Mirvis, and Ron Ashkenas — “Admittedly, this can be a little frightening, especially if you’re venturing into unknown career territory. Reimagining your professional identity is one thing; bringing it to life is another. Remember, though, that you haven’t left your skills and experience behind with your last job, and you’ll also bring with you the lessons learned from the setback. You may also have productively revised your definition of success.”

Categories: Blogs

How Pragmatic Leaders Can Transform Stuck Organizations

Greatleaders hipbydan - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 09:40

Guest post by Samuel B. Bacharach:
A stuck organization is one that might meet conventional measures of success but it is not necessarily thriving. It cannot quite reach that next level of innovation. It just misses the big breakthrough or is too focused on old business models that it cannot make the leap forward.

There are two primary reasons why organizations get stuck. They sink into inertia because of their clunky tendencies—often with multiple business models, competing goals, and conflicting priorities. There is so much going on that these organizations have a difficult time setting a path and moving forward in a coherent, organized fashion. Or they become stuck because of their narrow vision, limited scope, and a belief that yesterday’s business models are well suited to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

The leadership challenge for pragmatic leaders is to transform organizations with clunky or myopic tendencies into truly thriving organizations that meet their potential. Pragmatic leaders have the capacity to engage in robust discovery and focused delivery.

Robust discovery is to uncover the great ideas that are percolating in the organization and beyond. Pragmatic leaders have to be explorers. They have to be aware of their environment and look for signals. They have to have to confidence to seek out partners—both internal and external to the organization—to engage in deeper exploration. Pragmatic leaders have to be innovators. They have to lead the ideation process and support the decision to follow one idea to prototype.

Focused delivery is to campaign for support for the idea and to sustain momentum. Once an idea has been fleshed out, it is time to share it with others in the organizations. Often, the default reaction is resistance. Pragmatic leaders anticipate the reactions that others may have, and try to develop arguments and justifications for their idea. Pragmatic leaders understand that they cannot drop the ball. Once an idea is off the ground, it cannot be forgotten or passed off to other parties. Pragmatic leaders have a vested interest in the development of their ideas, and are determined to see them to fruition.

In the final analysis, pragmatic leadership is about execution. Pragmatic leaders understand that the difference between failed or failing organizations and thriving organizations is the ability of leaders to move ideas, overcome resistance, and create lasting change. To do this, they need to develop the micro-skills of discovery and delivery not only to move agendas and create change—but also to make sure that their organization doesn’t get stuck.

Samuel B. Bacharach is the McKelvey-Grant Professor at Cornell University’s ILR School and the co-founder of the Bacharach Leadership Group. He is the author of Transforming the Clunky Organization: Pragmatic Leadership Skills to Break Inertia (2018) and The Agenda Mover: When Your Good Idea Is Not Enough (2016), both published by Cornell University Press. Bacharach trains high-potential leaders in the skills of political competence and agenda moving. More information about his writing is available at:

Categories: Blogs

How a U.S. Health Care System Uses 15-Minute Huddles to Keep 23 Hospitals Aligned

Harvard business - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 07:00

A core challenge of management is to ensure that the organization’s priorities, strategies, and metrics are consistently embraced and that any impediments are identified and addressed quickly. At Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, ensuring the alignment of all these things to provide extraordinary care requires a constant regimented focus across our 23 hospitals, 170 clinics, and 850,000-member health insurance plan. To achieve that, we have implemented a model of daily huddles on an extensive scale. In this article, I’d like to share the insights we’ve gleaned from the model’s first full year of operation, which hopefully organizations in health care and many other industries will find useful.

The model has been used in other industries and has parallels to the “teams of teams” approach in the agile method of operating that has become so popular. But the scale at Intermountain Healthcare, where more than 2,500 huddles occur every morning, makes it especially illuminating and instructive.

At Intermountain, the 15-minute huddle is the key. It enables knowledge from activities throughout the organization in the previous 24 hours to escalate up to executive leadership — Tier VI in our model — and be addressed.

Using that 15 minutes effectively requires structure: Each huddle has a leader; the participants are designated, as is the recorder of the data; the huddle is scheduled; and the categories of reported information are captured on a prepared chart. We have four fundamentals of extraordinary care that are covered in our daily huddles: safety, quality, access, and stewardship of resources so they are used to provide the best possible care. Across those fundamentals, eight key topics are reported every day. They include potential serious safety events that could have harmed a patient, caregiver injuries, and reported downtimes (of equipment, elevators, systems or processes, for example).

The information that escalates up falls into two categories:

  • Issues that cannot be resolved at a given tier
  • Metrics that are reported daily, such as “units at capacity.”

Information flowing back down includes follow-up reports on previous action items.

Every action that emerges, including those at Tier VI, is tracked, and the outcome is communicated back through all tiers, so participants know what has transpired and understand the value of their input. After each Tier VI huddle, for instance, the recorder sends an e-mail to the person who owns each action and follows up to ensure that resulting outcomes are communicated. An item is not removed from the action register until follow-up is completed and conveyed. Interestingly, despite the number of huddles, the number of action items has never overwhelmed the system.

Beginning at 8:45 AM, care teams and managers in our hospitals and clinics gather in more than 1,500 Tier I huddles. At 9 AM, their reporting is considered in about 170 Tier II huddles, consisting primarily of directors of hospitals and clinics. By 9:15 AM, the reports of those directors are considered in Tier III huddles by hospital administrators and geographical clinic groups. Their findings and needs are, in turn, considered 15 minutes later in Tier IV huddles of affinity hospital groups such as trauma hospitals, rural hospitals, home care, and the Medical Group. Their reports escalate further to Tier V, consisting of major organizational areas such as all hospitals and community-based care. By 10 AM, vital information has risen to the executive leadership, which includes the CEO and his direct reports plus other assigned functional executives.

The entire process, which involved 652,080 huddles in the first year, is monitored by Intermountain Healthcare’s Continuous Improvement Team, and the categories of information collected are reviewed quarterly. The Continuous Improvement Team consists of about 50 caregivers who are spread geographically across the system. Team members have varied experience from industrial engineers to nurses and physicians, and a physician has responsibility for the team. Their focus is culture-based, not project-based, since we believe that real change and improvement come from a culture of continuous improvement aligned with strategy and a daily management system.

At every tier, needs that can be addressed at that level are resolved, while remaining ones, along with accumulating data, escalate up. The process provides three key qualities — clarity, alignment and accountability — for patients and caregivers alike.

The reporting lets executive leadership know precisely what is happening and unlocks frontline wisdom. It ensures alignment of goals, resources, and people. It pushes out responsibility and accountability to the frontline and enables executive leadership to intervene to remove barriers and release resources. It connects to the organization’s overall strategy and performance goals.

Throughout the first year of operation of this model, which began in full in April 2017, the range and breadth of issues addressed was extensive. At the Tier VI level alone, 365 unique issues were tackled, resulting in 22 systemwide safety alerts to our caregivers, organizational awareness of 15 pharmaceutical and supply shortages, rapid communication for potential formulary alternatives when supplies become limited, and better facilitation of patient transfers within the system. We also recognized and closed gaps in training on new equipment, replacement parts, new products, and instructional manuals, allowing the system to implement swift training for our caregivers.

An example of an important success of the escalation huddles is the ability to identify potential exposures to infectious diseases and quickly move to prevent the spread of diseases like pertussis, hepatitis, and chicken pox. Earlier this year, for instance, a community-wide outbreak of hepatitis b occurred. Our clinics reported the early development of the disease in huddles. That enabled Intermountain to prepare guidance for all clinics and ensure that staffing levels were appropriate and that increased dosages of needed drugs were on hand.

Another example is how the huddles allowed us to better track caregiver injuries and patient safety issues. These successes are vital within a health care system devoted to the safety and wellness of our patients and caregivers.

On the business side, the escalation process has provided improved visibility into operations. For instance, we have been able to track the increase in extended hours of access (beyond Monday to Friday; 8 AM to 5 PM) for our Medical Group clinics, including phone access and appointment availability, from 49% to 90% of clinics. We have pinpointed opportunities for improving staffing procedures and reducing interruption of services. On a national level, we have been able to work with two large vendors to improve their international shipping processes for replacement parts for imaging equipment, benefiting not only our organization but also many other customers of those companies.

Here are some lessons we have learned about how to make the huddles approach work.

It’s important to focus on trends and continually add and address issues being tracked. Every quarter we analyze what has escalated up and align it with key performance metrics. We often see significant quarterly differences — both because new needs arise and because previous efforts have improved metrics. We look at trends and how to address them, which may require adding new things to be tracked. In October, for instance, we added a new topic: errors in imaging, so that we can better understand any errors and how they occur. In reviewing trends, we have refined further the most vital metrics for executive leadership. We have also implemented a series of weekly reports in key system areas.

Accountability is vital to the efficiency of the process. Every action taken is tracked, a time frame assigned, and the resulting resolution reported back through the tiers. That accountability demonstrates the value of the process to all participants. It reveals rapid results. It shows that executive leadership is engaged daily in responding to frontline needs. Perhaps most importantly, it underscores, in practical daily terms, the organization’s commitment to continuous improvement, providing a constant reminder and tangible evidence that the commitment is real and ongoing at the highest level of management.

The entire process — from top to bottom — must be tied to the organization’s overall strategy and performance goals. That’s why Intermountain Healthcare’s four fundamentals of extraordinary care and eight key topics are covered in every day’s huddles. The eight topics are then tracked constantly and tie back to specific organizational goals.

Continuous improvement is a constant quest. Escalation huddles offer enormous potential and striking results in that pursuit — both in health care and beyond.

Categories: Blogs

How to Be Creative When You’re Feeling Stressed

Harvard business - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 06:05
ferrantraite/Getty Images

More than just lightly toasted, your brain feels singed.

You’re burned out, and the cumulative stress makes it hard to decide what to eat for dinner, let alone come up with innovative ideas. But people are still expecting you to produce creative solutions despite your current mental state. What do you do?

If you find yourself in this situation, I can’t offer any guarantees that epiphanies will come to you. But I can offer ideas based on my experience as a time management coach and on the science of how our brains work that can give you the best possible odds of coming up with some decent new thoughts.

To start, you need to let go of trying to “make yourself” come up with something creative. If you’re already struggling with stress, threatening yourself can further trigger the fight-or-flight mode. This causes you to operate out of the primal, least creative part of your brain. So instead of saying to yourself, “I must be creative,” or “This has to happen now,” it’s better to tell yourself something like, “I’m going to see what happens,” “I’m going to explore this possibility,” or “I’m going to play around with some ideas.”

You want to create a sense of psychological safety so you don’t experience debilitating performance pressure.

Once you’ve created psychological safety, then experiment with activities that can trigger the “diffuse-thinking” state. This type of thinking is one in which your brain operates in a looser manner, searching to make connections between different parts of your brain versus operating in the established neuropaths followed in the “focused-thinking” state. Activities like walking, napping, eating, or taking other sorts of breaks naturally put you into the diffuse state and open your mind up to new possibilities.

To maximize the benefits of these in-between times, avoid multi-tasking and let your mind explore a particular idea. For example, you could feed your brain these kinds of prompts: What might be involved in making this promotion a success? Or what might happen if we approached our customers in a different way? An openness of mind and non-judgment toward the quality or quantity of your thoughts gives space for creativity to come forth.

In particular, I find that I am most creative when I not only am giving myself space from my computer but also positioning myself in a “happy place.” In the warmer months, that’s somewhere outside preferably along a lake. In the cooler months, it’s likely a coffee shop with a fireplace. Beautiful, peaceful surroundings lift my spirits and creative mental capacity. Some of my coaching clients have found their happy, creative spaces in historic libraries, art museums, or even browsing through boutique shops. Know which environments naturally give you pleasure and immerse yourself in them to allow positive thoughts to arise.

If you still feel stuck and just can’t come up with something new, then you may want to give your brain more material to work with. This could look like reading on the topic, taking a field trip to a place where you can see other people’s creative solutions to a similar problem, or talking to experts. Sometimes by seeing what other people have done, you can come up with new ways to approach your own situation.

And then to even further increase your opportunity for breakthrough moments, collaborate with others. Alternating between solo thinking and time in groups proves the most effective way to develop the most creative thoughts. Have a brainstorming meeting with colleagues, get together for coffee with a friend, or do problem solving with a consultant. Two or more brains can work better than one. The process of talking through ideas can stimulate new thoughts and challenge your thinking.

Finally, give yourself time. When your brain operates at full capacity, you may have the ability to come up with creative thoughts on the fly. But when you’re less than 100%, you’ll have a much better chance of success by giving your brain time to percolate on ideas for a few days.

When you’re mind feels blank and all you want to do is zone out, it’s more difficult but not impossible to experience your breakthrough. By putting yourself in the right mental state and environments, you can find your creativity.

Categories: Blogs

Business Growth Depends on Effective Talent Management

Hr Bartender - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 02:57

I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s. When Mr. Bartender and I lived in South Florida, we had a Trader Joe’s but it wasn’t always convenient to stop there. Now that we live in North Florida, there’s a Trader Joe’s right down the street.

Because we’ve started going to Trader Joe’s more often, I wanted to learn a little more about the company. So, I listened to a short podcast series called “Inside Trader Joe’s”. As of today, there are nine episodes that talk about Trader Joe’s business, products, culture, employees, etc. It’s very interesting – and kinda fun.

But in the sixth episode, they talked about the future of the company and their expansion plans. Trader Joe’s CEO Dan Bane said that they hoped to open 30-35 stores per year. But he made a comment that stuck with me. He said, “We won’t open a store just because we can. We want to open a store that’s run by the right kind of people doing the right kinds of things.”

Simply put, this means that organizational growth (and dare I add business profitability) is contingent upon finding the right people at the right time using reasonable resources. This means that human resources and talent management professionals are front and center in the ability for the organization to meet its operating goals.

We talk all the time about HR having a seat at the table. Guess what? We do. Now we need to deliver.

At this year’s HR Technology Conference, I heard a speaker say that organizations can’t hire their way to growth. (My apologies, I can’t remember who said it.) But the point was that organizations can’t simply hire all the people they need from the outside to grow the business. The labor market right now doesn’t make that possible. There are more job openings than people.

In order to grow the company, it would be necessary to also develop talent from within. In addition to conducting effective external hiring.

If human resources departments aren’t thinking about their talent management strategies, now is the time to start doing that. We have to think beyond just filling requisitions. There needs to be a coordinated effort between recruiting and talent development. Managers need to be given the tools to hire, engage, and retain talent. A single program isn’t going to cut it. It’s going to take a strategy.

And that strategy needs to be long-term. Remember that well cited statistic from Pew Research that says 10,000 people a day are turning retirement age? Well, they aren’t all leaving the day they turn retirement age. But, at some point, they will leave. Which impacts the labor market.

Candidates have choices. Recruiting is getting tougher. Organizations like Trader Joe’s want to grow and expand. But as Dan Bane said, it takes people. Companies will be looking for HR to provide strategic guidance and effective talent management. The future of the company depends on it.

P.S. Speaking of business growth and talent, I’m going to be discussing this very subject with SAP for Small Business during a Facebook Livestream on Monday, December 3, 2018 at 12n Eastern. With me will be Robert Sher, author of the book “Mighty Midsized Companies: How Leaders Overcome 7 Silent Growth Killers” and Sarah Evans, digital correspondent and consultant. Details about the Livestream can be found on the SAP for Small Business Facebook page. Hope you’ll join us!

Door entry graffiti image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Havana, Cuba

The post Business Growth Depends on Effective Talent Management appeared first on hr bartender.

Categories: Blogs

How Women Manage the Gendered Norms of Leadership

Harvard business - Wed, 11/28/2018 - 13:10
gregobage/Getty Images

A wealth of research shows that female leaders, much more than their male counterparts, face the need to be warm and nice (what society traditionally expects from women), as well as competent or tough (what society traditionally expects from men and leaders). The problem is that these qualities are often seen as opposites. This creates a “catch-22” and “double bind” for women leaders. Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of HP, depicted it this way:  “In the chat rooms around Silicon Valley, from the time I arrived until long after I left HP, I was routinely referred to as either a “bimbo” or a “bitch”—too soft or too hard, and presumptuous, besides.”

To alleviate this double bind, societal expectations—for what it means to be a woman and what it takes to lead—must change. But until we get there, female executives still have to navigate these tensions. We wanted to know how successful women do it, day-to-day. So we conducted extensive interviews with 64 senior women leaders (all at the VP level or higher) from 51 different organizations in the United States: CEOs, general managers, and executives across functions, working in various industries. We found that there are four paradoxes, all stemming from the need to be both tough and nice, that these women confront. We also identified five strategies they use to manage them.

Four Balancing Acts

Paradox 1: Demanding yet caring.  The female executives we studies told us they must demand high performance from others, while also demonstrating that they care about them. For example, Norma*, an HR executive in financial services, recalled how, in a past project, her perseverance led to successful project outcomes but also earned her some negative feedback: “I remember a program that I designed that everyone was doubting …And I truly just knew deep in my heart and… gut that it was going to work. So I kept pushing forward…. And it was a huge, huge success… I’ve gotten feedback on being intimidating and that kind of stuff. Would I get the same feedback if I were a man?”

Paradox 2: Authoritative yet participative. This paradox lies between asserting one’s competence, and admitting one’s vulnerability and asking others to collaborate. On the one hand, women leaders learned to project authoritativeness, because without doing so, they risked being perceived as not credible, especially at the beginning of a new business engagement. They learned to “toughen up,” “speaker louder,” and “act decisively.”

On the other hand, to prevent being perceived as arrogant, women leaders were also quick to acknowledge their own weaknesses and work with others. For example, Claire, a general manager in manufacturing, commented: “I’d learned about [my] tendencies of being directive. I’m having to manage and maybe take it down and go slower, go slow to go fast, to bring people along and to ensure that we have alignment.”

Paradox 3: Advocating for themselves yet serving others. The third paradox involves meeting one’s needs and goals as well as others’. Focusing too heavily on one side can cause serious trouble. For example, Cameron, a strategy executive in an accounting firm, told us how she would share her knowledge with others, only to later feel taken advantage of when they failed to reciprocate. By contrast, Meredith, a general manager in health services, was almost removed from a leadership team because she was seen as too aggressive in negotiating with internal stakeholders in order to promote her own goals.

Paradox 4: Maintaining distance yet being approachable. Our study subjects sometimes struggled to be seen as leaders, separate from colleagues and team members, while also developing close relationships. To generate respect, women leaders kept a distance from others, maintaining an impersonal “leadership presence” that was marked as “professional,” “objective,” and “serious.” At the same time, they noticed that they might then create impressions of being “stiff,” “ego-centric,” and “apathetic,” making it difficult to earn trust and commitment.

To bridge this, many explicitly and emphatically worked to convey the intimate human side of themselves, so they were instead seen as “accessible,” “warm,” “social,” “personable,” “friendly,” “informal,” and “easy to connect with.” Dawn, CEO of a nonprofit organization, explained how she did this through something as simple as clothing: “I try always to dress just ever so slightly more formal than employees, except on Fridays when I dress very informal to show that I’m also not stiff and unapproachable. Generally we have fun, but…there is a little bit of distancing that I try to maintain…I want people to see that I’m fair-minded and not playing favorites.”

Strategies for Managing the Tensions

Our findings suggest that to successfully navigate these paradoxes, women leaders first need to become aware of them, teasing out the different tensions rolled up into the central nice/tough double bind. Then, they can develop and customize a repertoire of strategies to manage, thereby enhancing their effectiveness and resilience. We identified five:

Adapt to the situation. Most of our study subjects told us that they demonstrate niceness and toughness in different situations, toward different audiences. For example, to signal both distance and approachability, Melissa, a general manager in a manufacturing firm, said: “I specifically don’t sit at the head of the table at certain times. [It] depends on the meeting and the environment. At certain times, I want to send the signal I’m just one of the team today, and other times I want to be very clear that I’m here to make a decision, and then I take a slightly different stance.”

Go in order. Another strategy is to be nice (or caring and collaborative) first, then tough (or demanding and directive). First, you build relationships, establish trust, and engage people, and then you follow up with harder behavior or language to challenge the status quo or achieve goals. For example, Marilyn, a general manager in a financial services firm, talked about her philosophy of working with others: “I think it’s just [building] that day-to-day relationship where people want to help you succeed. And so when you…advocate for something, people generally bend over backwards to figure out how to help you get it done.”

Similarly, Ruth, a new product development executive in manufacturing, talked about an incident in which she pushed to shut down a project that some of her peers considered their “babies.”  She was able to do so without incurring resentment because she had first “invested a lot of time in developing strong collaborative relationships,” which was later helpful, since then, she said, “You can get past some of the politics… I’m not trying to make you look bad. I really do just want to work for the betterment of the business.”

Look for win-wins. Many women we talked to focused on identifying opportunities where niceness and toughness converge—what they sometimes called a “win-win” strategy. For example, Dorothy, a general manager in health services, described her mindset this way: “The most important thing is understanding what are the values, the traits, the goals of that person that you’re trying to influence… So, I’ve always tried to know what it is that I’m trying to achieve, tie that back to something that I know they want to achieve.”

Be tough on tasks and soft on people. With this strategy, women leaders focused on simultaneously being nice to people and tough on tasks. For example, Sally, a state legislator, shared her experience: “I learned that we could vehemently disagree on an issue, and when we walked out of the room, we were friends. I really came to see the importance of being able to separate [that] out.”

Denise, a strategy executive in a financial organization, shared another example: When a colleague presented an unsatisfactory proposal, she used a soft approach to deliver a hard message:  “I wanted to lay enough on the table to say, ‘Boy, this is very interesting….Can we do some more research on this? Can we test this against some other organizations?’ That’s an example of where you can get an idea across without saying: ‘Hey listen, I think this is really dumb, and we’re not going to do it.’ I’m much more effective as a leader if I lead with a question.”

Reframe. We found that the leaders also tried to reframe what it meant to be nice and tough. They focused on connecting the two and reinforcing positive associations. This involved recasting behaviors that might be considered weaknesses as strengths. For example, women leaders described displays of vulnerability as reflecting inner confidence—feeling secure enough to comfortably reveal their own faults and weaknesses. Shannon, a president in a manufacturing company, explained, “I am very confident in saying ‘I don’t know the answer but I’m keen to find out’ or ‘I don’t know the answer but I know I have the ability to find out.’”

Another approach was to frame assertive behaviors that others might find threatening as originating from genuine care. For example, Lorraine, Jordan, and Norma described giving negative feedback or voicing disagreements as trying to help others.

In the long run, organizations and society must produce systematic change to alleviate conflicting expectations for women and additional hurdles for their leadership. But as long as female executives face the double bind, they will need to find ways to manage it.

*All names have been changed

Categories: Blogs

Tackling Climate Change, and Making Sense of the Nissan-Renault Drama

Harvard business - Wed, 11/28/2018 - 12:54

Youngme Moon, Felix Oberholzer-Gee, and Mihir Desai tackle climate change, discuss the Nissan-Renault soap opera, and share their After Hours picks for the week.

Download this podcast

For interested listeners:

Some recent picks:

  • The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Video)
  • The Ringer website
  • Janesville (Amy Goldstein)
  • Airtable (software)
  • Small Fry (Lisa Brennan-Jobs)
  • Educated (Tara Westover)
  • Burn After Reading (Netflix)
  • Janelle Monae
  • Company (Stephen Sondheim musical)

You can email your comments and ideas for future episodes to: You can also follow Youngme and Mihir on Twitter at: @YoungmeMoon and @DesaiMihirA.

HBR Presents is a network of podcasts curated by HBR editors, bringing you the best business ideas from the leading minds in management. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Harvard Business Review or its affiliates.

Categories: Blogs

Why We Need to Audit Algorithms

Harvard business - Wed, 11/28/2018 - 07:00
Thoth_Adan/Getty Images

Algorithmic decision-making and artificial intelligence (AI) hold enormous potential and are likely to be economic blockbusters, but we worry that the hype has led many people to overlook the serious problems of introducing algorithms into business and society. Indeed, we see many succumbing to what Microsoft’s Kate Crawford calls “data fundamentalism” — the notion that massive datasets are repositories that yield reliable and objective truths, if only we can extract them using machine learning tools. A more nuanced view is needed. It is by now abundantly clear that, left unchecked, AI algorithms embedded in digital and social technologies can encode societal biases, accelerate the spread of rumors and disinformation, amplify echo chambers of public opinion, hijack our attention, and even impair our mental wellbeing.

Ensuring that societal values are reflected in algorithms and AI technologies will require no less creativity, hard work, and innovation than developing the AI technologies themselves. We have a proposal for a good place to start: auditing. Companies have long been required to issue audited financial statements for the benefit of financial markets and other stakeholders. That’s because — like algorithms — companies’ internal operations appear as “black boxes” to those on the outside. This gives managers an informational advantage over the investing public which could be abused by unethical actors. Requiring managers to report periodically on their operations provides a check on that advantage. To bolster the trustworthiness of these reports, independent auditors are hired to provide reasonable assurance that the reports coming from the “black box” are free of material misstatement. Should we not subject societally impactful “black box” algorithms to comparable scrutiny?

Indeed, some forward thinking regulators are beginning to explore this possibility. For example, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires that organizations be able to explain their algorithmic decisions. The city of New York recently assembled a task force to study possible biases in algorithmic decision systems. It is reasonable to anticipate that emerging regulations might be met with market pull for services involving algorithmic accountability.

So what might an algorithm auditing discipline look like? First, it should adopt a holistic perspective. Computer science and machine learning methods will be necessary, but likely not sufficient foundations for an algorithm auditing discipline. Strategic thinking, contextually informed professional judgment, communication, and the scientific method are also required.

As a result, algorithm auditing must be interdisciplinary in order for it to succeed. It should integrate professional skepticism with social science methodology and concepts from such fields as psychology, behavioral economics, human-centered design, and ethics. A social scientist asks not only, “How do I optimally model and use the patterns in this data?” but further asks, “Is this sample of data suitably representative of the underlying reality?” An ethicist might go further to ask a question such as: “Is the distribution based on today’s reality the appropriate one to use?” Suppose for example that today’s distribution of successful upper-level employees in an organization is disproportionately male. Naively training a hiring algorithm on data representing this population might exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, the problem.

An auditor should ask other questions, too: Is the algorithm suitably transparent to end-users? Is it likely to be used in a socially acceptable way? Might it produce undesirable psychological effects or inadvertently exploit natural human frailties? Is the algorithm being used for a deceptive purpose? Is there evidence of internal bias or incompetence in its design?  Is it adequately reporting how it arrives at its recommendations and indicating its level of confidence?

Even if thoughtfully performed, algorithm auditing will still raise difficult questions that only society — through their elected representatives and regulators — can answer. For instance, take the example of ProPublica’s investigation into an algorithm used to decide whether a person charged with a crime should be released from jail prior to their trial. The ProPublica journalists found that the blacks who did not go on to reoffend were assigned medium or high risk scores more often than whites who did not go on to reoffend. Intuitively, the different false positive rates suggest a clear-cut case of algorithmic racial bias. But it turned out that the algorithm actually did satisfy another important conception of “fairness”: a high score means approximately the same probability of reoffending, regardless of race.  Subsequent academic research established that it is generally impossible to simultaneously satisfy both fairness criteria.  As this episode illustrates, journalists and activists play a vital role in informing academics, citizens, and policymakers as they systematically investigate such tradeoffs and evaluate what “fairness” means in specific scenarios. But algorithm auditing should be kept distinct from these (essential) activities.

As this episode illustrates, journalists and activists play a vital role in informing academics, citizens, and policymakers as they investigate and evaluate such tradeoffs. But algorithm auditing should be kept distinct from these (essential) activities.

Indeed, the auditor’s task should be the more routine one of ensuring that AI systems conform to the conventions deliberated and established at the societal and governmental level. For this reason, algorithm auditing should ultimately become the purview of a learned (data science) profession with proper credentialing, standards of practice, disciplinary procedures, ties to academia, continuing education, and training in ethics, regulation, and professionalism. Economically independent bodies could be formed to deliberate and issue standards of design, reporting and conduct. Such a scientifically grounded and ethically informed approach to algorithm auditing is an important part of the broader challenge of establishing reliable systems of AI governance, auditing, risk management, and control.

As AI moves from research environments to real-world decision environments, it goes from being a computer science challenge to becoming a business and societal challenge as well. Decades ago, adopting systems of governance and auditing helped ensure that businesses broadly reflected societal values. Let’s try replicate this success for AI.

Categories: Blogs

Curiosity-Driven Data Science

Harvard business - Wed, 11/28/2018 - 06:30

Data science can enable wholly new and innovative capabilities that can completely differentiate a company. But those innovative capabilities aren’t so much designed or envisioned as they are discovered and revealed through curiosity-driven tinkering by the data scientists. So, before you jump on the data science bandwagon, think less about how data science will support and execute your plans and think more about how to create an environment to empower your data scientists to come up with things you never dreamed of.

First, some context. I am the Chief Algorithms Officer at Stitch Fix, an online personalized styling service with 2.7 million clients in the U.S. and plans to enter the U.K. next year. The novelty of our service affords us exclusive and unprecedented data with nearly ideal conditions to learn from it. We have more than 100 data scientists that power algorithmic capabilities used throughout the company. We have algorithms for recommender systems, merchandise buying, inventory management, relationship management, logistics, operations — we even have algorithms for designing clothes! Each provides material and measurable returns, enabling us to better serve our clients, while providing a protective barrier against competition. Yet, virtually none of these capabilities were asked for by executives, product managers, or domain experts — and not even by a data science manager (and certainly not by me). Instead, they were born out of curiosity and extracurricular tinkering by data scientists.

Data scientists are a curious bunch, especially the good ones. They work towards clear goals and they are focused on and accountable for achieving certain performance metrics. But they are also easily distracted, in a good way. In the course of doing their work they stumble on various patterns, phenomenon, and anomalies that are unearthed during their data sleuthing. This goads the data scientist’s curiosity: “Is there a better way that we can characterize a client’s style?” “If we modeled clothing fit as a distance measure could we improve client feedback?”  “Can successful features from existing styles be re-combined to create better ones?”  To answer these questions, the data scientist turns to the historical data and starts tinkering. They don’t ask permission. In some cases, explanations can be found quickly, in only a few hours or so. Other times, it takes longer because each answer evokes new questions and hypotheses, leading to more testing and learning.

Are they wasting their time? No. Not only does data science enable rapid exploration, it’s relatively easier to measure the value of that exploration, compared to other domains. Statistical measures like AUC, RMSE, and R-squared quantify the amount of predictive power the data scientist’s exploration is adding. The combination of these measures and a knowledge of the business context allows the data scientist to assess the viability and potential impact of a solution that leverages their new insights. If there is no “there” there, they stop. But when there is compelling evidence and big potential, the data scientist moves on to more rigorous methods like randomized controlled trials or A/B Testing, which can provide evidence of causal impact. They want to see how their new algorithm performs in real life, so they expose it to a small sample of clients in an experiment. They’re already confident it will improve the client experience and business metrics, but they need to know by how much. If the experiment yields a big enough gain, they’ll roll it out to all clients. In some cases, it may require additional work to build a robust capability around the new insights. This will almost surely go beyond what can be considered “side work” and they’ll need to collaborate with others for engineering and process changes.

The key here is that no one asked the data scientist to come up with these innovations. They saw an unexplained phenomenon, had a hunch, and started tinkering. They didn’t have to ask permission to explore because it’s relatively cheap to allow them to do so. Had they asked permission, managers and stakeholders probably would have said ‘no’.

These two things, low cost exploration and the ability to measure the results, set data science apart from other business functions. Sure, other departments are curious too:  “I wonder if clients would respond better to this this type of creative?” a marketer might ask.  “Would a new user interface be more intuitive?” a product manager inquires. But those questions can’t be answered with historical data. Exploring those ideas requires actually building something, which will be costly. And justifying the cost is often difficult since there’s no evidence that suggests the ideas will work. With its’ low-cost exploration and risk-reducing evidence, data science makes it possible to try more things, leading to more innovation.

Sounds great, right? It is! But you can’t just declare as an organization that “we’ll do this too.” This is a very different way of doing things. You need to create an environment in which it can thrive.

First, you have to position data science as its own entity. Don’t bury it under another department like marketing, product, finance, etc. Instead, make it its own department, reporting to the CEO. In some cases, the data science team will need to collaborate with other departments to provide solutions. But it will do so as equal partners, not as a support staff that merely executes on what is asked of them. Instead of positioning data science as a supportive team in service to other departments, make it responsible for business goals. Then, hold it accountable to hitting those goals — but let the data scientists come up with the solutions.

Next, you need to equip the data scientists with all the technical resources they need to be autonomous. They’ll need full access to data as well as the compute resources to process their explorations. Requiring them to ask permission or request resources will impose a cost and less exploration will occur. My recommendation is to leverage a cloud architecture where the compute resources are elastic and nearly infinite.

The data scientists will need to have the skills to provision their own processors and conduct their own exploration. They will have to be great generalists. Most companies divide their data scientists into teams of specialists — say, Modelers, Machine Learning Engineers, Data Engineers, Causal Inference Analysts, etc. – in order to get more focus. But this will require more people to be involved to pursue any exploration. Coordinating multiple people gets expensive quickly. Instead, leverage “full-stack data scientists” with the skills to do all the functions. This lowers the cost of trying things, as a single tinkering initiative may require each of the data science functions I mentioned. Of course, data scientists can’t be experts in everything. So, you’ll need to provide a data platform that can help abstract them from the intricacies of distributed processing, auto-scaling, etc. This way the data scientist focuses more on driving business value through testing and learning, and less on technology.

Finally, you need a culture that will support a steady process of learning and experimentation. This means the entire company must have common values for things like learning by doing, being comfortable with ambiguity, balancing long-and short-term returns. These values need to be shared across the entire organization as they cannot survive in isolation.

But before you jump in and implement this at your company, be aware that it will be hard if not impossible to implement at an older company. I’m not sure it could have worked, even at Stitch Fix, if we hadn’t enabled data science to be autonomous from the very the beginning. I’ve been at Stitch Fix for six and a half years and, with a seat at the executive table, data science never had to be “inserted” into the organization. Rather, data science was native to us in the formative years, and hence, the necessary ways-of-working are more natural to us.

This is not to say data science is destined for failure at older, more mature companies, though it is certainly harder than starting from scratch. Some companies have been able to pull off miraculous changes. And it’s too important not to try. The benefits of this model are substantial, and for any company that wants data science to be a competitive advantage, it’s worth considering whether this approach can work for you.

Categories: Blogs

Is Employee Engagement Just a Reflection of Personality?

Harvard business - Wed, 11/28/2018 - 06:05
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Most people would like to have a job, a boss, and a workplace they can engage with, as well as work that gives them a sense of purpose. This aspiration is embodied by a famous Steve Jobs statement: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” In line, a recent report by the Conference Board shows that 96% of employees actively try to maintain a high level of engagement, even if many of them struggle to succeed.

In a similar vein, the scientific evidence suggests quite clearly that few things are more critical to an organization’s success than having an engaged workforce. When employees are engaged, they display high levels of enthusiasm, energy, and motivation, which translates into higher levels of job performance, creativity, and productivity. This means not only higher revenues and profits for organizations, but also higher levels of well-being for employees. In contrast, low engagement results in burnout, higher levels of turnover, and counterproductive work behaviors such as bullying, harassment, and fraud.

It is therefore not surprising that a great deal of research has been devoted to identifying the key determinants of engagement. Why is it that some people are more engaged — excited, moved, energized by their jobs — than others? Traditionally, this research has focused on the contextual or external drivers of engagement, such as the characteristics of the job, the culture of the organization, or the quality of its leaders.  And although there is no universal formula to engage employees, it is generally true that people will feel more enthusiastic about their jobs when they are empowered to achieve something meaningful beyond their expectations, feel connected to others, and when they work in an environment — and for someone — that is fair, ethical, and rewarding, as opposed to a constant source of stress.

But despite the importance of these contextual drivers of engagement, how people feel about their job, boss, and workplace may also vary as a function of people’s own character traits. Indeed, even before organizations started talking about the need to “engage employees,” many managers appeared to regard motivation as something individuals brought with them to work — a characteristic of people they hired. This is why two individuals may have very different levels of engagement even when their job situation is nearly identical (e.g., they work for the same company, team, and boss), and why there is always demand for employees who display consistent levels of ambition, energy, and dedication, irrespective of the situation they are in.

This raises an obvious yet rarely discussed question, namely: how much of engagement is actually just personality? A recent meta-analysis provides some much needed data-driven answers. In this impressive study which synthesized data from 114 independent surveys of employees, comprising almost 45,000 participants from a wide range of countries — and mostly published academic studies, which met the standards for publication in peer-reviewed journals — the researchers set out to estimate the degree to which people differed in engagement because of their character traits. To illustrate this point, imagine that a friend tells you that she hates her job. Depending on how well you know her, you might question if her views are a genuine reflection of her dreadful job, or if they just reflect your friend’s glass-half-empty personality. Or think of when you read a Tripadvisor, Amazon, or IMDB review of a hotel/product/movie: to what degree does that review convey information about the object being rated, versus the person reviewing it? Even intuitively, it is clear that reviews are generally a mix of both, the rater and object being rated, and this could also apply to people’s evaluations of their work and careers.

Although the authors examined only the impact of personality on engagement — without considering the known contextual influences on it — their results were rather staggering: almost 50% of the variability in engagement could be predicted by people’s personality. In particular four traits: positive affect, proactivity, conscientiousness, and extroversion. In combination, these traits represent some of the core ingredients of emotional intelligence and resilience. Put another way, those who are positive, optimistic, hard-working, and outgoing tend to show more engagement at work. They are more likely to show up with energy and enthusiasm for what they do.

So if you want an engaged workforce, perhaps your best bet is to hire people who have an “engagable” personality?  The recent study we reviewed suggests that doing so will actually boost your engagement levels (as measured by surveys) more than any intervention designed to improve leadership, or to craft the perfect job for people. However, while this may look like an attractive position to take for managers, particularly if they wish to make engagement an employee problem, there are four important caveats to consider:

For starters, being more resilient to bad or incompetent management may be helpful for individual employee well-being, but it can be damaging for the wider performance of the organization. Frustrated employees are often a warning sign of broader managerial and leadership issues which need to be addressed. If leaders turn employee optimism and resilience into a key hiring criterion, then it becomes much harder to spot and fix leadership or cultural issues using employee feedback signals. It is a bit like a restaurant owner saying: “Instead of serving better food, or improving the service, I will boost my reviews by ensuring that my diners have lower standards!” While that may boost customers’ satisfaction ratings, it will certainly not raise the quality of the restaurant. Put another way, surrounding yourself with people who are more likely to give you positive and optimistic feedback does not actually make you more competent at your job.

Second, as data from the study clearly show, at least half of engagement still comes from contextual factors about the employees’ work — issues or experiences that are common across employees in an organization. So while one employee’s opinion might be heavily biased by the personality of that individual, a collective of views (like those often captured in organizational surveys) are more representative of the shared issues and challenges that people face at work. This is important because organizations are not really just a collection of individuals — they are coordinated groups with shared identity, norms, and purpose. Engagement therefore represents the “cultural value-add” an organization provides to its people at work — shaping their energy, behaviors, and attitudes over and above their personal preferences and styles. Ignoring this point isn’t an effective strategy for good leadership, and would cause you to leave valuable performance drivers out of your decision making.

Third, the most creative people in your organization are probably more cynical, skeptical, and harder to please than the rest. Many innovators also have problems with authority and a predisposition to challenge the status quo. This makes them more likely to complain about bad management and inefficiency issues, and makes them potentially more likely to disengage. Marginalizing or screening out these people might seem like a quick win for engagement, but in most organizations these people are a significant source of creative energy and entrepreneurship, which is more difficult to get from people who are naturally happy with how things are. To some extent, all innovation is the result of people who are unhappy with the status quo — who seek ways to change it. And even if hiring people with engageable personalities does boost organization performance levels (and decreased undesirable outcomes), there are big fairness and ethical implications when it comes to excluding people who are generally harder to please and less enthusiastic in general, especially if they are just as competent at their jobs as any others.

Last, anything of value is typically the result of team rather than individual performance, and great teams are not made of people who are identical to each other, but of individuals who complement each other. If you want cognitive diversity — variety in thinking, feeling, and acting — then you will need people with different personalities. That means combinations of personalities to fit a variety of team roles — having some individuals who are naturally proactive, extroverted, and positive, working together with some who are maybe the exact opposite. The implication of this is clear: if your strategy for “engaging” your workforce is to hire people who are all the same — in that they are more engageable — you will end up with low cognitive diversity, which is even more problematic for performance and productivity than having low demographic diversity (though we think both types of diversity should be pursued).

So, if you want to truly understand engagement in your organization then you need to look at both who your people are and what they think about their work. In other words, more calibration to employee personality is needed. For example, managers leading teams of people who are generally harsh or negative could benefit from seeing engagement data through the lens of personality, helping them to target issues that are genuinely impacting team performance.

And this then also opens up a new opportunity: to think about how engagement data could also be used to encourage employees to better understand their own views about work, giving them more flexibility to take personal ownership and find ways to thrive. In a recent study, researchers found that 40% of managers identified emotional intelligence and self-awareness as the most important factors influencing whether an employee takes responsibility for their own engagement. If we can combine what we know about engagement with what we know about personality, then we can help each person more effectively navigate their organizational reality — leading to better, more effective organizations for all.

Categories: Blogs

Speak Out Successfully

Harvard business - Tue, 11/27/2018 - 12:54

James Detert, a professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, studies acts of courage in the workplace. His most surprising finding? Most people describe everyday actions — not big whistleblower scandals — when they cite courageous (or gutless) acts they’ve seen coworkers and leaders take. Detert shares the proven behaviors of employees who succeed at speaking out and suffer fewer negative consequences for it. He’s the author of the HBR article “Cultivating Everyday Courage.”

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Categories: Blogs

Every Organizational Function Needs to Work on Digital Transformation - SPONSOR CONTENT FROM GARTNER

Harvard business - Tue, 11/27/2018 - 10:18

Digital business reached a tipping point in 2018 as organizations scaled their digital capabilities. Eighty-seven percent of senior business leaders say that digitalization is now a priority and in many cases is a do-or-die imperative.

In our surveys, more than 66% of CEOs said they expect their companies to change their business model in the next three years, with 62% reporting they have management initiatives or transformation programs underway to make their business more digital.

Clearly these leaders believe that digitalization offers exciting new, technology-enabled ways for organizations to engage with stakeholders, deliver a superior experience across the life cycle of their business, manage costs, and improve productivity.

Yet 72% of corporate strategists in a recent survey said their company’s digital efforts are missing revenue expectations.

Why are companies seeing this gap between expectation and results in digital business, which Gartner defines as the creation of new business designs that blur the boundary between the digital and physical worlds?

Our research shows that a company’s ability to gain strategic clarity on its path to business model transformation is crucial to its success.

Some organizations see digital business as an opportunity to totally reinvent themselves and their business models. Other enterprises and their functions are looking to leverage technology to optimize and augment existing operations.

But whatever the extent of an organization’s digital ambition, our research shows most corporate strategists tend to play it safe, favoring incremental investments. But in some companies, strategists are bolder. They test entirely new business models while also finding ways to reduce the associated risks. These progressive strategists take specific steps to identify future differentiators and engage the whole organization in a better, faster way to clarify their path to business model transformation. Without that clarity, returns from digital initiatives suffer.

Ultimately, every organizational function is having to manage the pressure of change in digital transformation, business models, and other areas.

The pressure is real, but market intelligence from across Gartner’s research and advisory teams shows progressive functional organizations are proactively realigning or reinventing themselves to respond, at the requisite speed, to enable their enterprise to capture the opportunities presented both by digitalization and today’s buoyant economic conditions.

Aligned Organizational Culture and Capabilities

Digital business also is creating new challenges for information and technology (I&T). In what Gartner calls a third era of enterprise IT, existing investments must be rebalanced and combined with new, disruptive technologies.

Organization-wide disruption also is causing dramatic shifts in culture and capabilities. New skills are emerging, and existing skills are evolving and expiring. Employees are concerned about their skills becoming irrelevant: better upskilling is their top concern.

Strategic workforce planning, and talent management and reskilling initiatives, are already top of mind for many in HR and among functional leaders. But on a macro level, there is near-universal demand for digital dexterity — a set of beliefs, mindsets, and behaviors that help employees deliver faster and more valuable outcomes from digital initiatives.
Just as digital technology is now fully within the purview of all organizational leaders, so is the question of digital-ready talent.

But disruption also breeds cultural tensions — as the digital ambitions of the enterprise conflict with longtime operating objectives and create competing priorities that employees don’t know how to balance. Especially without strategic clarity, employees are unsure if they should focus on speed or quality, efficiency or innovation, for example. The more tension employees feel, the more stressed they are and the worse their performance becomes.

In progressive companies, business leaders work proactively to surface these tensions, acknowledge tough trade-offs, and help leaders set and articulate priorities. The result is more effective culture-informed judgment by employees — and better performance.

Customer-Centricity at the Forefront

Digitalization is also characterized by transformative shifts in customer needs, which are compounded in today’s buoyant global economic conditions. In this environment, every functional leader has a role to play in translating digital ambition into commercial success.

Leading supply chain organizations, for example, are embedding agility and responsiveness into their DNA to catalyze the digital supply chain into action.

On the sales and service fronts, leaders are increasingly focused on positioning employees to be more effective and productive in the new paradigms they face.

In B2B sales, reps are confronted with buyers who spend more time researching in digital channels and exchanging information within buyer groups than they do engaging directly with sales reps. Progressive sales leaders position reps to help buyer groups navigate this complex purchase process, an approach we call “buyer enablement.” Proactive service leaders have turned their attention to improving the experience of their reps at work — which, in turn, benefits customers — rather than simply arming service reps with more and more tools meant to directly improve service.

High-performing marketing organizations have developed a more agile style of working to keep their brands competitive amid rapid marketplace shifts. Their leaders are building a diverse, adaptable range of team capabilities — allocating people and resources based on the work that needs to be done, regardless of where resources sit in the organizational structure.

Drive Digitalization — Or At Least Don’t Be a Drag
The digital era also demands that consumers and organizations be secure. In most organizations, the CIO remains accountable for cybersecurity, but information and technology (I&T) top performers are more likely to report that their boards are ultimately accountable for cybersecurity. All CIOs need to educate their boards and the C-suite on how to think about and take more responsibility for cybersecurity risk.

This new operating reality of multiple stakeholders and rewired accountabilities is playing out in all enterprise functions, challenging them to meet their core responsibilities and manage new risks at the speed of digital business as evolving business models change the value proposition, customer base, profit model, and/or business capabilities.

Progressive procurement departments deliver a feeling of certitude to business partners that lessens their anxiety, uncertainty, and exasperation during purchasing and thus alleviates the kind of pressure that can force procurement to make bad and costly trade-offs just to speed up buys.

In functions where governance is a key responsibility — from risk and audit to finance and legal and compliance — leaders are identifying effective ways to inject their expertise and guardrails into business strategy and operations even when decision making is highly distributed.

Transform Your Digital Future with Gartner’s Top C-Suite Insights for 2018-19.


Categories: Blogs


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