Monday, January 30, 2017

HR Best Practice? Yeah, Right


A memorable exchange I once had with a former HR colleague went like this:

Me:  “When Workforce Planning accounts for cascading gaps because you filled some jobs from within, that’s commonly viewed as HR best practice.” Colleague:  “Oh really,  Well I think best practice is simply the practice that works best!”

Borrowing a line from the classic movie Cool Hand Luke … his statement “helped get my mind right.”

So a suggestion coming out of my initiation into the world of practical HR thinking: Whenever you hear someone say: It’s “HR best practice”, perhaps you should ask if they’re following a blueprint crafted specifically for their organization and business context. And if they’re not, odds are that particular practice will come under some scrutiny soon, and perhaps shortly thereafter, the individual that architected the practice.

As With New Employees, Best is Mostly About Fit

Many of us were a bit taken aback when we heard highly regarded Zappos was generously paying new hires to quit if they were dissatisfied, and not just because it was likely deemed more cost-effective in the long run. The practice was in fact instituted mostly because the company’s brand is totally about “best customer experience imaginable” and this is so much more than a tag line. One of countless examples is that their customer service reps never use scripts. Genius, common sense, or both. You decide, but also think about whether this would work for a phone company. Fat chance as they say.

Elsewhere, a number of well-known large companies including LinkedIn, Virgin America, Best Buy and Netflix have started experimenting with unlimited paid time off. The rationale: time away from the job helped with employee productivity; e.g., by avoiding burn-out. Beyond that benefit, trusting employees not to take advantage of the company can make them feel – and therefore act -- like part owners of the business.  This practice worked for these employers, particularly when employees and managers discussed adequate coverage for key duties in their absence, but clearly it’s not a universally great fit. Consider the impact on an impending re-start of a nuclear power plant if even one senior-level nuclear or safety engineer was in urgent need of some downtime. “Adequate coverage” is in the eye of the beholder.

 Outside the realm of potential life and death consequences, however, innovative crowd-funding company Kickstarter abandoned its unlimited vacation policy when they thought it was sending some type of message (subliminal?) to employees to take less time off. So a creative HR practice designed to minimize burn-out was actually burning people out!

As in the aforementioned exchange with that colleague, best practice does indeed come down to what works in a particular business context; and when you’re talking about a new HR practice under consideration, desired corporate culture might be the #1 element to focus on. In high-tech startups, a very informal, “we’re one family” culture and typically doling out some equity are used to attract top talent. Arguably it’s also to compensate for a lower salary initially. By way of contrast, when was the last time you saw someone’s canine companion taking a stroll inside a blue-chip investment advisory firm?


Why the Time is Right to Evaluate Predictive Capabilities in HCM Systems

Every CHRO focus group or survey these days identifies “enhancing analytics capabilities” or “crafting a people analytics roadmap” as a top initiative. This of course includes analytics of a predictive nature, as these generally have the highest impact. It’s now time-critical for both HR execs and HCM solution providers to think about what type of technology capabilities are needed to support these initiatives, which, if successful, clearly help make the case for HR having that proverbial seat.
So we’ve decided to put a stake in the ground and evaluate what most enterprise software vendors are describing as their “early” capabilities and customer experiences in this area.
Many HRMS (employee life cycle) vendors cut their predictive analytics teeth around the retention risk area. Some of those providers have progressed to predicting potential to succeed in different roles, or factors that impact employee engagement and productivity. A few now forecast labor and skillset gaps and use that intel to optimize work schedules. One or two HCM solutions now even highlight potential compliance risks and recommend training to  mitigate those risks, or offer other examples of prescriptive guidance.
Is this the bulk of what HR leaders are looking for? Hardly, as any HR Tech vendor will tell you: “They are just getting started!”
One HR tech vendor exec we spoke with for this research said “the ultimate vision here is to predict all employee-related outcomes that materially impact business performance, understand why the outcome is likely, communicate why this insight matters, and determine and pursue the key actions needed.” As a destination point, it’s probably better than most.
2 key indications the time is now for getting this research out there::
·        A few of the larger HCM solution vendors weren’t in such a hurry to discuss their predictive capabilities. Yes, this can happen with emerging technology areas; plus getting a read on “customer and market readiness” perhaps requires soothsayers as much as product managers.
·        HR buyers’ interests seem to be out in front of what a large swath of the HR tech vendor community is delivering when it comes to these capabilities. This is not a dynamic observed very often. Vendors have historically done a lot of the pulling in this relationship.
Finding the “homeostasis point” where HR tech customers and vendors can both see and derive business benefit from moving the ball forward on HCM predictive capabilities keeps us moving forward with this research, underlining its sense of purpose -- and urgency!
 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Change Management in HR Tech Deployments -- Lessons from the Trenches

From https://www.horsesforsources.com/blog/steve-goldberg

My preoccupation with change management can be traced back to when I realized that success on HR Technology initiatives was perhaps more a function of the organization being “ready, willing and able” to change (in the form of leveraging new technology) than anything else, including the virtues of any particular system. Now before some folks in the vendor community or others fascinated by shiny objects yell “blasphemy”, let’s remember that:
  • Any HCM system (aka HRMS) that‘s been successfully deployed in hundreds of similar organizations likely provides at least 80% of the major process-enablement capabilities a typical customer needs, plus many innovative people management features as well.
  • It’s unlikely that any HCM system will 100% match a buying organization’s business requirements, let alone their future vision around managing talent for competitive advantage.
  • Much of the gap between 80% and 100% can often be addressed through a combination of configuration tools, influencing the vendor to address in an upcoming release or product update (more frequent updates with cloud delivery) or inconsequential process workarounds.
Successful HRMS implementations are more linked to factors outside the chosen technology, and the #1 factor is (internal) customer-centric change management.

It took me some time to have the above epiphany partially because senior management and project sponsors at my first few employers generally assessed project success based on the system being delivered on-time, on-budget and stable. End-user adoption and business case realization were rarely on the project charter in those years. You could say this was fairly helpful to my HR Tech career at the time, but not so helpful to those particular organizations as a whole. 

As a result of inadequate attention to change management in the first few rollouts, very few folks outside the HR Department used the system at these companies, and worse, most line managers maintained their own spreadsheet with HR data and related update processes. They simply trusted their own, personally crafted low-tech data repositories more. These dynamics can cost companies millions annually. (Post a comment below if you’d like to see the math!) What was missing? All future end-users needed to be “ready, willing, and able” – a framework used by many change management experts.

"Ready” suggests the impacts of the change are understood, and sources of resistance and associated mitigation steps identified. “Willing” relates to the case for change being widely syndicated, tailored to stakeholders as needed, and reinforced through communications programs and executive support.  Finally, “able” suggests that relevant skills, competencies, performance measures and even corporate culture aspects are being put in place to execute and sustain the change.

Ready-Willing-Able: A Success Story
In one of my later HR Tech involvements, we went beyond understanding process automation requirements and spent considerable time with line managers discussing people management (not process management) issues that kept them up at night, how real-time access to high-value data would help them, etc. This time, we put “empathy for the customer experience” first. We also worked to overcome (beginning with acknowledging!) some long-standing disappointments with HR on the part of many consumers of HR solutions, services and programs. This was Design Thinking before the term was widely used, although empathy had been around for eons.

The team also figured out creative ways to give end-users (mostly line managers in this instance) a sense of control and ownership over the system and its data. One example involved hitting a “challenge button” about any data that line managers suspected of being incorrect. That opened a dialogue box for comments and auto-generated an email to an appropriate HR administrator requesting research and resolution. Quick turnaround was ensured through an associated SLA (service level agreement) process. 

The “black hole” of trying to resolve data issues with HR disappeared! 

That prestigious bank’s Chairman came into my office for the first time ever to congratulate our team on the crowning achievement for the HR Department, not just that year, but any year in his memory.  He heard that people outside HR were using the system, and regularly.

Combating Employee Disengagement from all the Change
Multiple generations at work with different personal drivers, automation changing the nature of work, achieving more with less, and the frequency with which businesses tweak their operating models or totally re-invent themselves are dynamics that won’t be changing anytime soon. These dynamics can lead to employee disengagement even without adding new “HR / People Systems” to have to learn and use. And disengagement can bring down even the best run companies. Investing in employees in ways that resonate certainly helps with the employee disengagement challenge; but empathetic change management is absolutely essential when the change is represented by something very tangible, like a new system.   

Bottom Line:  When end-users genuinely feel their work lives and perspectives are taken into full account, due to proactive change management, the prospects of broad HCM system adoption and even a stellar ROI are significantly higher.