Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Rules of Engagement

According to an October 2013 Gallup study, one in eight, or 13% of employees, are engaged with their work.  However, the bulk of the employees in the study, 63%, are “not engaged.”  Employee engagement is important for organizational success. So how does an organization keep its employees engaged in their work and engaged with their organization? Astronology explores some areas to consider when creating an engaging workplace.

1. Start by engaging with potential candidates at the recruitment stage.
A strong, reliable, and smooth recruitment process is important for ongoing talent management. The UK mobile network “3” decided to move its recruitment measures to an online platform nearly 10 years ago with the hopes that employees would have a positive and consistent experience with the company starting at initial contact. Prompt contact with candidates gave 3 an edge in its highly competitive market. Part of their online recruitment process gave candidates the ability to track their application status at every stage of the process. Their online system also allowed 3 to record, keep on file, and identify potential candidates who may not match the jobs initially applied for, but could be potential matches for other positions that may become available at a later date.  The system opened communication between candidates and the organization...creating an engaging environment before the hiring process.

2. Provide regular and consistent performance management.
The annual performance review with the employee should not be viewed as an “administrative burden.” The employee should feel as though he / she is valued for his / her contributions to the organization. The performance review is a way for employers to demonstrate to employees that they are valued and recognized for their hard work. It also allows the employees to see that there is a communication channel they can use to share their concerns and ideas.

3. Get to know what your employees are thinking.
The use of employee opinion surveys is one way to get to know what the employees think of their current work environment.  Companies such as Recreational Equipment (REI) have become creative, designing an online social media platform called “company campfire” where employees can voice their concerns and opinions.  As our world becomes more technical, being inventive in opening communication channels may set in motion the motivation for employees to want to communicate and become more engaged.

4. Managers must be effective in engaging their employees.
How are managers to be effective in engaging their employees? Investors In People (IIP), a UK government owned company designed to assist British businesses, lists the following: 
o   It is imperative that managers are clear with individuals on what is expected of them:“Clarity is vitally important for employees, ensuring that they know their place within the organization, and what is expected of them in their role.  This will further incorporate development of team members, a key attribute in keeping them engaged and aligned with an organization’s objectives.” 
o   They must treat individuals as individuals, showing respect and fairness for all. “Every individual within a company expects to be treated fairly, so managers must ensure that their behavior towards them is consistent.  This must be consistent not only within the context of other team members, but also within that of other managers and the wider organization.” 

o   Managers must be able to build work relationships with team members, both on a one-on -one level and on a group level. “Breaking down barriers and working in a close capacity is one of the simplest methods for managers to build trust within their team.  In this sense, flattening the hierarchy, pitching in, and sitting with the team are all efficient ways of building up those relationships.  Furthermore, managers must also be willing and prepared to feedback on a team’s direction.  This can be done quite simply when a particular team member or team is performing well, but it is equally important to feedback when the reverse is true.  Research shows that employees particularly value feedback after completion of a successful, but complicated or difficult task.”
Do you see areas you can improve on to make your organization more employee-engaged? Has your organization made adjustments not mentioned in this article that has made a difference? Please share your thoughts with Astronology – we’d love to hear from you!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Employee Opinion Surveys: Make Them Work for You

One of the more common tools used by management in order to gain an understanding of employees is the employee opinion survey.  Such a survey can offer an employee the opportunity to freely comment on how he / she truly feels about his / her work and worth within the organization, and how management can improve the organization’s culture and increase employee engagement. While the upside potential of using surveys is high, there are naturally some concerns with employee opinion surveys, mainly focused on data interpretation and follow up.

Survey Advantages

A desired result from an employee survey is that senior management will be able to identify problems that can be assessed and addressed in a satisfactory manner. Depending on the type of opinion survey given, employees may feel comfortable speaking on serious concerns such as their working environment, failing work processes / procedures, department and organizational mood, and morale.

Conducting regular, yearly employee surveys also can give employees a sense of voice. Such open communication stimulates a collaborative work environment. When management initiates communication devices such as opinion surveys, employees feel as though their opinions matter, thus boosting employee morale and confidence. Management can also get a better understanding of the employees’ knowledge of their objectives and goals.

Survey Concerns

A major concern with using employee surveys is a negative response from management. Some managers may feel as though soliciting employee feedback is a sign of weakness, and thus dismiss anything negative in the survey results. This can occur especially with senior management, who has a ‘top down view’ versus the ‘bottom up view.’  When management reviews survey results without keeping an open mind, a “blame the messenger” attitude can occur if the results aren’t as positive as expected.

The most challenging concern with a survey process is inaction on the survey results. Employees may interpret this as a lack of concern, or even disrespect, if they do not see some form of management consideration of their feedback. In the employees’ eyes, management is responsible for responding to what has been said. To not address what was discovered in the survey can lead to lack of employee motivation, resulting in dismal output and decreased engagement.

Making Surveys Work for You

A key to making employee opinion surveys work is to take them seriously. This starts at the beginning when creating the survey. Ask your project team what type of information you want to gather from your employees. You want to design a survey that will accurately capture information you need to improve your organization’s culture.  In addition, explore how long the survey will be. Too long of a survey may result in insincere answers.  Too short, and you may miss key points that need to be explored. Furthermore, consider if you are encouraging your staff to provide their honest feedback.  Without guarantees of confidentiality and management responsiveness, employees will be hesitant to share anything less than positive.

Once you receive the survey results, whether positive or negative, accept the responses, create an action plan, and execute it. An old proverb that many hold sacred is “Action speaks louder than words.” So let your employees SEE that you are aware of their concerns and will be doing what can be done to address their concerns.

Employee opinion surveys are typically cost effective. Many organizations create their own, or outsource their surveys for confidentiality purposes. Using a third party administrator affords personal consultation on the survey results.  Astron Solutions offers such consulting services to assist organizations obtain the most from their employee opinion surveys.

Are you in tune with what concerns your employees?  When was the last time you asked them?  If it’s been more than a year, why not schedule to conduct one later this year? Astron Solutions can certainly assist!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When Employees Ask for the Impossible, What Should You Do?

Many of us are familiar with the stories of entertainment professionals requesting special water, candy, or other items in their dressing rooms.  Specific working hours that allow enough time for partying later in the evening.  And an entourage of assistants to answer the celebrity’s every beck and call.  Such behavior happens only in Hollywood, right? 

Not necessarily.

For several years, human resource professionals have focused their organizational efforts on becoming “employers of choice,” with the hope of attracting “employees of choice”: committed, consistent high performers and contributors.  According to Dr. Kenneth Christian, Ph.D., the primary characteristics of such organizations include the following:

  • An organization that consistently invests in education, training, and ongoing mentoring far more easily aligns a multifaceted workforce with its goals.
  • Employees in such a workforce develop loyalty to the fundamental cultural values of the organization and in turn actively support adherence to those values.
  • This resulting standard of devotion and engagement creates in employees a willingness to tap into discretionary effort and go the extra mile for the employer that goes the extra mile for them.
  • The result is happy, productive workers who work harder and smarter, and when necessary, longer. They do so because they feel included, feel a sense of belonging, and are aligned with the goals of the organization. They know that their personal development is a fundamental organizational goal.
However, an unexpected outcome from these efforts has been the creation of a workforce that has started to challenge management in both process and decisions.  Along with this come situations where the employee makes demands on management that border on the impossible. For instance, as the efforts to become an employer of choice result in more financial success, expect increased demands for raises and benefits.

MoreBusiness.com succinctly summed up the issues surrounding questions of raises:
o        How much of your resources you wish to give up is your decision, but it is near impossible to grant every employee demand and have a successful business. You will discover that there are few secrets in a business. If you are generous to a particular worker, others will expect the same treatment. If employees think you are making money, expect them to knock on your door. As an employer, you will conclude you need to say no. Saying no to a valuable worker is difficult, but there are times you must, even when the person threatens to quit.
o        Never allow yourself to be hostage to threats of quitting. If you get a reputation as an "easy mark," it is going to be difficult to reverse it. Most employees expect reasonable and just treatment. Their loyalty develops from consistent and fair employee policies. You will find that discrimination will lead to hostility and problems. Be fair and honest with your employees and you will find it easy to say no to any unreasonable demand. 

Another area of concern is the swelling ranks of mobile workers, fueled by the wireless Internet, powerful handheld devices, VPNs (virtual private networks), and WLANs (wireless local area networks).  As many as nine out of every 10 employees now work from locations other than the organization’s headquarters, according to Nemertes Research, a New York market researcher that specializes in emerging technologies.  The new “employees of choice” are very much aware of this demographic.  According to Microsoft Small Business Resources, an organization should respond as follows:

o        Update your management style. Supervisors often distrust or resent mobile workers, who are then overlooked or uninformed. The command-and-control style of bygone days doesn't work with self-motivated offsite workers. One remedy is to require everyone on staff to work remotely for a while. You'd be surprised how quickly that changes attitudes.
o        Put everyone on the same page. Without consistent guidance, each remote worker will set an individual list of priorities. In that case, if you're lucky, all you'll lose is efficiency. Instead, make sure mobile workers have the same business goals as you do. Tech tools are making that easier.
o        Limit access to need-to-know. There's no good reason why every staffer should be able to access all company bytes and archives. You can also limit data on a remote basis but allow more access in the office.
o        Work on the glue but stay vigilant. Communications and follow-up with isolated employees demands special effort. After all, on site, every staffer takes one look at the boss' face and gets an instant organizational weather report. For remote workers, relying on Instant Messaging, e-mail, or texting will not cut it. Have real-time phone conversations often. Bring in mobile workers for periodic updates to maintain ties with the rest of the staff.
o        Bridge HR and IT. What happens when a mobile worker calls in sick? Do you even believe it? And how can mobile workers take advantage of benefits or training programs? One way to resolve such issues is to put your human resources manager and your technology guru in a room and walk away for several hours. Ask them for policy suggestions.
o        Keep tools up-to-speed. A serious challenge of the untethered workforce is keeping tabs on all the wandering devices and technology. How often do you update which workers? How do you integrate personal mobile tech, such as cell phones and home WLANs, with organizational firewalls? What about internal communications? Will your mobile device talk to mine?
o        Measure productivity not activity. "If you lay out clear expectations and performance goals, and the employee doesn't need to be in the office or verbally interact with other people, then it shouldn't matter if the eight-hour workday is from midnight to 8:00 a.m.," says Roberta Matuson, a human resources consultant based in Northampton, Mass.

Management needs to take steps to learn how to control impossible employees rather than have these employees control their managers and their environments.  Lack of control will only lead to increased workplace stress for all involved.   Always keep in mind that in any group, there will be someone who keeps pushing, asking for the difficult or impossible with each question.  You and your organization must decide if the employee’s contribution to the greater good is worth addressing such requests and demands.  In some cases, addressing unreasonable demands tears away at the fabric of the group.  In others, a little give makes all the difference.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Guest Post: 8 Reasons to Retain Existing Employees

Should an employer try to hang on to existing employees or hire new ones? It depends on the situation, but you should never be too quick to get rid of your existing work force in favor of fresh new faces. Let’s say, for example, that you’ve noticed a drop in morale among some of the established employees at your firm. Perhaps you think it’s easier to get rid of the malcontents and hire new (and possibly cheaper) workers. Or suppose morale isn’t an issue, but some new positions or opportunities have become available in your firm. Maybe you think it is better to start with a new crew than to give your existing employees first grabs at the new opportunities. But don’t be too hasty. There are plenty of good reasons you should make every effort to retain your old employees. Here are eight.

1.   You’ll save money, time, and effort in recruitment and hiring. Looking outside of your firm to fill positions can be costly and time-consuming, and placing help wanted ads is just the beginning. Although the Internet has made job postings more cost-effective and much more efficient, ads in other media such as print or broadcast still have a viable role in many companies’ recruitment strategies. And someone has to monitor those job postings, as well as review resumes, interview candidates, conduct background checks, and verify references.
2.   You’ll save time and effort in training. Some may argue that it takes more time and effort to retrain employees who are “stuck in their ways” than to train new ones. There may be some validity to this argument in certain cases if an employee has bad work habits that seem ingrained. But what about your good, productive employees? They are already trained, and you don’t have to start from scratch. They may need additional training, refresher courses, or retraining in some areas, but the fact that they’re not a blank slate can be to your company’s advantage.
3.   Your existing employees have experience and the right skills. Experienced employees are generally less likely to make errors and more likely to be productive. Even if you have to retrain in some instances, keeping your old employees is still often more cost effective than hiring new ones.
4.   You can’t put a price on morale. Morale can take a nosedive when employees get laid off, downsized, outsourced, or replaced. Making an effort to retain employees – and making your employees aware of that effort – can go a long way towards keeping morale high. Remember that once morale breaks down it can be very difficult (and costly) to restore.
5.   The employees you have are a known quantity. We’re not going to say "go with what you know,” but the truth is that you do know them, to a large degree, after they’ve been with your company for a while. You know something about their work habits, their job performance, perhaps even their interests and ambitions.
6.   There is value in continuity and stability. Continuity is good for productivity. Some industries just naturally have a high turnover rate and count that as part of the cost of doing business, but most companies would rather not have to deal with a revolving door of employees. Making a genuine effort to retain good employees will help ensure that your company isn’t beset by constant personnel upheavals.
7.   There is value in loyalty. Many companies like to boast that their people are their most cherished resource, yet the actions of many firms don’t really reflect that noble sentiment. And if it seems that employee loyalty is a thing of the past, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that in the past couple of decades, employer loyalty has fallen by the wayside as well. Globalization, economic upheavals, and cultural shifts have created a work environment that is markedly different from that of previous generations, and these days it’s pretty rare for a worker to stay at the same company all of his or her working life. Yet you can and should strive to do your best to retain your valued employees as long as possible. Loyalty is no longer a given; you have to earn it. But it’s well worth the effort.
8.   Sometimes, it’s just the right thing to do. Business has always been about more than the bottom line; it is (or should be) about human values as well. Your employees are not disposable, interchangeable commodities; they are individuals who contribute value to your company. This isn’t to say that you should hang on to a worker who is a true liability to your operation. But don’t be quick to get rid of experienced employees. Sometimes, making that extra effort to retain a long-time worker – even if that worker is having a challenge or two – really is the right thing to do.

Although it is true that you may be able to hire new employees for a lower salary, the actual cost of replacing established, experienced workers might turn out to be steeper than the salary difference. Very often, you really do get what you pay for.

Author Bio:
This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from Freepeoplesearch.org. She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23 @ gmail.com.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Are You Using These Hot HR Technologies?

Lately, there have been numerous discussions on advancing technology and its place in Human Resources.  Unifying talent management suites, harnessing the potential of cloud storage, and exploring gamification technology are prominent in our Human Resources world of 2014. One must wonder, are we making the most of these hot HR technologies?  If not, are we aware of them and how we can use them to our best advantage?  Let’s explore each technology in more depth.

Talent Management Suites that are “Unified,” not “Integrated”
According to Bill Kutik, technology columnist for Human Resource Executive, the word “integrated” to describe HR tech applications can be misleading. Vendors will insist their systems can be integrated between different modules from other vendors that clients are currently using, only to find post-purchase that the desired integration may not be possible.  As a result, a new buzzword in 2014 will be used: “unified.” Instead of having pieces of a talent management suite, HR professionals will have a complete unified system, as the components would be built together.

Naomi Lee Bloom offered this thought on unified Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS) during the webinar Predict and Prepare 2014: “The number and complexity of the interconnections between what's normally in core HRMS and what's normally in talent management creates an enormous problem if you have to integrate across multiple disparate systems… can it be done? You write enough code, we can make anything work. But every dollar spent making it work is a dollar you don't have for innovation."

What systems are you currently using that could benefit from unification?  What steps can you take to harness this trend for your organization’s strategic advantage?

Cloud Data Storage 

TO THE CLOUD!! The rush to join cloud options for data storage has been an ongoing discussion for some time. In 2014, cloud storage has become safer, which means more organizations will take seriously the option to place their precious data in the cloud. Kutik speculates, "I think everyone agrees HR is moving to the cloud, …so the question is how fast will they do it, and which vendor will they choose to do it with?"

What data can you migrate to the cloud, to free up internal resources and enhance productivity?  What is holding you back from migrating to the cloud?

Fighting Low Employee Engagement with Social Performance Management and Education

A Forbes blog post quoted an HR manager with saying, “our employees are no longer looking for a career; they’re looking for an experience.” So what can HR do to make that experience rewarding, engaging, and encouraging? As explored in a recent Astronology article, gamification is a new and exciting area to consider in order to engage candidates and employees alike.

In a fairly recent eyebrow raising Gallup poll, only 29% of American employees are engaged at work. Why? While a variety of factors may be in play, broadly speaking, Human Resources has been paying less attention to employee development.  This results in the dreaded skills gap, employee feelings of inadequacy on the job, and a general sense of lack of caring by the employer.  So why does employee development get moved to the back burner, given its far reaching effects? Perhaps we have been focused on other areas in recent years and have strayed off course?  Did concerns over the cost of employee development – whether in terms of finances or time – drive those decisions?  Whatever the reason, expect more conversation on employee development plans in 2014.

In what areas can your employees grow? Have you considered using gamification to create a performance management and employee development system that facilitates sharing, development, and communication between employees and managers?  Not the standard yearly review, but rather a program that the employees can access at any time, to track their own growth, and enjoy mini-rewards for reaching goals.

It’s anticipated that organizational learning will become less formal over time. While learn-at-lunch programs and e-learning have been used with measured success, gamification is making big waves.  Don’t be surprised if you find your own organization creating online gaming formats in order to train and educate employees. Such ingenuity will create excitement for employees and will surely keep them enthused and engaged with their organization.

Are there some areas of technology not mentioned here that your organization is using successfully in Human Resources? Please share them with us!  We may feature them in an upcoming issue of Astronology.

Monday, March 03, 2014

The Perks That Make Up Some Top Tech Companies

Technology companies offer great perks to keep top talent within their ranks. San Francisco is home to many of those great companies and their perks are the standard bearers for most of the top companies in the world. Outlined by The San Francisco Business Times, here are a few of my favorite of the perks:
  • Salesforce.com's unlimited gummy bears...and donation matching up to $5,000
  • Dolby Laboratories' early screenings of films in the Dolby theaters in the office.
  • DocuSign's "tranquility room" with "soft lighting and water fountain for mothers or people who want to chill out" and, of course, Nurf guns.
  • Dropbox's complete music studio equipped with drums, piano, amplifiers, etc.
  • Quantcast's annual home brewing competition--of beer
  • OpenDNS gives a week-long vacation on the company once you get to the five-year mark
  • And, my favorite, Piston Cloud Computing gives each employee "A beautiful, awesome hat of your choosing (bowler, fedora, panama) that is adorned via a hatting ceremony."
These are just some of my favorite perks that are being offered by companies in San Francisco to employees. There are a lot of ways to make employees happy but one of the most memorable ways to do it is through unique and meaningful perks. You don't always have to offer employees an awesome hat--but do something employees will be connected to you by.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Some Friday Inpsiration

So why am I posting two Tweets from 2009 (H/T to George Takai) Because that same guy who didn't get hired by Twitter or Facebook didn't give up. He decided that he was going to do something on his own and do it big. And this week, almost exactly four years after his rejection from the social media giants began, Brian Acton sold his company, WhatsApp, to Facebook for $19 billion.

I think that's probably going to net him a bit more than any of those jobs would have in the past four years (or four millenia). The lesson: turn a rejection into a stepping stone, instead of a tumbling block.

And to get your start on that path, here is The Daily Muse's list of the 50 best conferences to attend this year. Find your passion and your talent and go find a way to get that turned into something amazing. We may not all be able to sell our companies for $19 billion--but we can all be like Brian Acton and turn rejection into success.

Have a great (and inspired) weekend!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

CHROs…How Is Your Role Evolving?

Initially, the responsibilities of the Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) were clear-cut. Similar to a General Manager, and focused on the HR area of an organization, CHROs traditionally dealt with organizational design, talent management, recruitment, and rewards systems. Today, the CHRO role has evolved drastically and it continues to change.  How has your role as a CHRO evolved?

A Deloitte Strategist and Steward report groups the current CHRO roles and responsibilities into four major categories:

Workforce strategist: “Business strategy is increasingly a function of the workforce itself. Although CHROs continue to support and implement the overall direction, they now play a key role in steering and informing that direction – helping the CEO and other leaders craft strategies that make sense in light of global labor trends and available talent.”

Organizational performance conductor: “Companies today face an overwhelming number of choices, from boundary-less organizations, virtual teams, contingent workforces, telecommuting, and job sharing, to flexible hours, workforce diversity and more. CHROs help navigate all those options – creating value in the “white space” that other companies take for granted.”

HR service delivery owner: “Although CHROs are becoming increasingly strategic, they still need to deliver the goods of the day to day HR administration and operations…Today’s CHROs spend a lot less time overseeing their own systems, processes and transactions and a lot more time juggling a complex mix of in-house resources, employee self-service, and external vendors - doing their best to serve as the company’s HR market maker…”

Compliance and governance regulator: “CHROs have begun working directly with the board on workforce issues that are particularly critical or high risk; they also assist with a wide range of board related issues, from member selection and orientation to executive compensation and succession planning.”

To further validate the importance of the Chief Human Resource Officer’s evolving position in an organization, Dr. Karie Willyerd, SuccessFactors’ VP of Social Adoption, analyzed the financial performance of Fortune 500 companies with and without a CHRO as part of the C-Suite, or team of top senior executives.  Her key findings include the following:

1. Companies with both a higher percentage of goals aligned with corporate objectives and identified HR risks have better financial and market performance.

2. Companies that have a higher percentage of completed goals are more profitable, delivering higher EPS growth and better PE ratios than their industry peers.

Now that we know the lay of the land, it’s time to explore further.  What challenges can be expected for those in the growing and evolving role of CHRO?

Deloitte indicates that the following should be on the radar screen of all current and future CHROS:
  • Addressing talent gaps
  • Orchestrating learning, skills and career development
  • Providing executive coaching for senior leaders
  • Overseeing leadership development programs
  • Developing cross-functional teams
  • Overseeing an organization’s major change initiatives
  • Defining organizational culture and values
  • Defining diversity strategy programs
  • Overseeing and managing compensation and benefits
  • Formulating, executing, and managing HR policies / compliance
  • Managing Human Capital risks
  • Supporting the compensation committee of the Board 
“While all of the above are critical to the HR function, and the CHRO role, we find that understanding executive compensation’s legal constraints and nuances, and supporting the organization’s Board, is a key area of development for potential CHROs,” explains Michael Maciekowich, Astron Solutions’ National Director.  “If you are planning for a career path culminating in a CHRO role, take the time now to learn about executive compensation, rather than experiencing a ‘trial by fire’ years down the road.” 

All of this may seem overwhelming, or just downright demanding for anyone to add to an already full plate. So how can we make this expanded scope of responsibility more feasible? Sandy Ogg, a senior operating partner at Blackstone, and James Allen, a Senior Partner in Bain & Company’s London office, highlight some steps CEOs can take to change the behaviors of the leadership team…and how a CHRO can help:

-          - Be active in identifying between “doers” and “thinkers.”  “Each of these individuals plays an important organizational role when they are given responsibilities that tap into those strengths,” explains Jennifer Loftus, Astron Solutions’ National Director.  “For the greatest success with lessened stress, know the players on your team before assigning tasks and responsibilities.”

-          - Find and develop the right people with the right capabilities to solve issues, rather than trying to resolve everything yourself.  “Would that we could do everything ourselves!  Since that approach is neither practical nor advisable, teamwork and delegation are essential to success,” notes Jennifer.

Are you a CHRO? How has your role evolved in your organization? Share your story with Astron Solutions today and it could be a guest feature in Astronology!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Data Analytics – Is Your Organization on Track?

It’s predicted that by 2015 Data Analytics will be responsible for generating $3.7 trillion – that’s right, trillion – in products and services and 4.4 million new jobs. With such high expectations, many have wondered how data analytics can be used within the realm of Human Resources in order to strengthen an organization.
How exactly can data analytics be applied in Human Resources? Josh Bersin mentioned in a Forbes Leadership post that “Companies are loaded with employee, HR and performance data. For the last 30 years we have captured demographic information, performance information, educational history, job location, and many other factors about our employees. Are we using this data scientifically to make people decisions?” A simple question, but truthfully, are we using the information we get from exit interviews and employee satisfaction surveys to better our organizations’ bottom lines? Are we analyzing performance rates of employees and working on improvements? Or are we simply collecting the data in a rote fashion and not doing anything with it? We need to ask ourselves how we can use this wealth of information to better our organizations.

Two case examples are helpful in building the case for data analytics. Bon–Ton, a chain of 280 department stores in the United States, leveraged its data to identify the qualities apparent in their more successful sales reps.  Since reviewing this information, the company now screens potential sales reps by using a test designed around those key traits. Those who score high on this test generally sell 10% more than other reps, and tend to enjoy their work more. Since 2008, the company has seen a $1,400 increase in sales per representative and 25% lower turnover, providing a strong return on investment over the analysis and test development costs.

In 2009, PNC Financial Services recognized that when hiring experienced outsiders over internal candidates, they were unknowingly hurting their organization. PNC partnered with its marketing analytics group to analyze the sales performance over several years of external hires versus people promoted from inside. The results? In some key positions, internal candidates were significantly more productive their first year than experienced external hires. In later years, outsiders did improve…but didn’t match the productivity of the internal candidates. In short, the company was losing money by not recognizing this reality.
So how can you use data analytics right now? Start with these two easy steps:
1. Use the data you have! Study it to identify areas of weakness. Don’t let the data sit dormant in a binder or in your HRIS.  Want to identify the qualities needed for strong employees in specific positions? Use the data from performance reviews to cross-compare with the competencies, repeated behaviors, and consistent actions of these employees. See if you can foster and develop these qualities or habits by training other employees. Want to reduce turnover rates? Examine those employee satisfaction surveys…and actually investigate those concerns and make adjustments.

2. Dig deeper if necessary. Sometimes the data you already have isn’t enough…invent new ways to grab the data needed. Google, for example, did a study on whether good managers matter for their culture. Prasad Setty, Head of Google’s people analytics group, says that “through various methods we found positive relationships between good management and retention and the performance of teams. We then conducted double blind interviews to identify key behaviors exhibited by our best managers. We found eight behaviors that make a good manager and five pitfalls to avoid. These are now incorporated into our manger-training programs and coaching sessions…the vast majority of our lower-rated managers have improved as a result.”

“Data analytics may seem daunting at first, particularly if time pressures or a fear of numbers is present.  Analytics need not require using calculus, however.  Key in data analytics is identifying patterns and relationships,” explains Astron Solutions’ National Director Jennifer Loftus.  “Those relationships can then become the basis for actionable measures that impact your organization’s bottom line.”

Need help setting up an employee satisfaction survey? Do you seek a more effective way to collect and analyze your talent management data to improve your organization? Contact Astron Solutions today to learn how we can help!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Answering the Dreaded Question

There are a lot of tough questions to answer in the interview process. "What are your biggest weaknesses" is one of my least favorite. "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" is the one I find the most annoying. But, by far, the most dreaded question for me is "What was your last salary (or what do you expect to make in this job?" That last question is not just one of the hardest to figure out how to ask, but also the least advantageous according to LinkedIn:
Employers will have the upper hand in your job search as long as you give them it to them. When you decide that you have something valuable and unique to bring to your next organization -- when you really believe it, and act out of that conviction -- you'll quickly move past the managers who don't deserve you, and focus on the ones who do. You won't hand over confidential information about your past salaries, because that's nobody's business but your own.
LinkedIn always has great advice from CEOs and other executives and this time is no exception. And if you needed a way to get away from giving that information while also not totally avoiding the question and not being rude, the author, Liz Ryan, has a script to be able to get you to the right position in the conversation.

For the employers, it's important to have the upper hand in the negotiation but don't you want to make sure once you hire this employee, they're going to be happy and stay around a while? Maybe being upfront about how much the position pays is the best way to make sure that you get that high quality candidate to come on board and stay.