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Is there a talent crisis in the workplace? Although the word crisis might seem hyperbolic, evidence points to a worrying state of affairs in many organisations. Oxford Economics recently published a revelatory survey, which found that companies are failing to manage and harness the talent of their employees effectively. Oxford Economics and SAP quizzed more than 2,700 and an equal number of employees in 27 countries over the second quarter of 2014. It found that many companies simply do not have the structure, culture, strategy, solutions or resources to develop the talent of their staff and get the best out of them.
Worryingly, the report found that many companies lack basic data, metrics and tools to truly understand and develop the skills of their employees. This is despite the fact that there is a clear need for human relations (HR) departments need to become more evidence based as the 2020 workforce will be more flexible and diverse. Just 42% of respondents said they were aware of how to use data available to them to extract valuable insights.
The survey highlighted a concerning disconnect between company leaders and employees. The latter, in particular, do not understand what their companies want from them in terms of their work capabilities. Although a high level of education and/or institutional training was the top attribute that top executives listed, employees who responded to the survey did not even list this in their top three.
A lack of leadership was also a key issue that both employees and executives emphasised in the study. Executives said that insufficient leadership was a major obstacle to achieving workforce goals. Just 35% said that talent that they had in leadership positions is enough to drive company growth. Roughly half of executives also did not believe that their team had the skills to manage talent or inspire workers. Employees were equally pessimistic on this front. Only 44% of them said their company’s leadership could bring their companies success.
Such poor indicators may be down to the fact that companies are not training employees for leadership roles adequately. Planning for leadership successions was found to be uncommon, even for key roles. Most employees and executives said that there was little emphasis on cultivating leadership abilities amongst employees.
The Oxford survey offers some interesting insights into talent tensions in the workplace with the rise of the millennials, or Generation Y. Oxford Economics’ research is interesting because it attempts to go beyond common observations such as the millennials’ need for work life balance. Instead, the survey focuses on how millennials require more formal mentoring and training to develop skills. They also need informal feedback from their managers as well. Fifty percent more millennials said they wanted this compared to older peers. Perhaps then the talent crisis in the workplace is partly because firms are not reacting to the specific needs of millennials to reach their full potential.
The state of affairs outlined in the Oxford survey has raised questions about whether the government needs to act. In particular, some HR experts argue that governments need to push policies to improve talent management across the board. In February, for example, World Travel & Tourism Council research found that if the government does not act alongside private companies, the tourism industry could employ 14 million less people and lose $610 billion of its GDP value over the next decade. Government financing for training programs or offering state-supported training courses for free could be particularly crucial; companies often say that they lack the budget to send their employees on useful training courses.
Evidence suggests that a serious talent crisis could be just around the corner. The travel and tourism sector is not the only one where experts are ringing alarm bells. There is a severe talent shortage in the IT sector, for example. Observers in particular argue that the UK could be sleepwalking into serious trouble. ICT is becoming a less popular subject choice in UK schools. According to e-Skills UK, the proportion of ICT and telecoms professionals under 30 years old has waned from a third in 2001 to 19% in 2010. A talent gap in all sectors of engineering, from mechanical to software, is already constraining the British economy, some have argued.
Exit interviews. They are not what we tend to think of when it comes to the nerve wrecking interviews that we will all face at one point or other during our lives. But they are increasingly common. All good companies should conduct exit interviews. Both employees and employers can gain a lot- if they understand how to make the most of them.
An exit interview is a face-to-face discussion or survey that a company carries out with a person who is leaving an organisation. The individual parting from the firm is able to share frank feedback about their experiences working for the organisation, and explain their decision to leave in further detail.
It is perhaps a shame that employees tend to take an extreme view on exit interviews. They either see them as pointless or even dangerous, or they think they are an ideal opportunity to let rip about all their grievances.
It is best not to indulge in the latter, however tempting that might be. As this article in The Guardian discusses, if there are emotions involved then it is best to see your exit interview like the ideal a parting conversation with an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. It is time to let go and move on. Settling scores, calling out office bullies or making a big point of presenting a laundry list of the company’s faults is actually going to make what could be a very positive method of closure quite unpleasant for everyone.
That said, it is important to be honest about your experience working at a firm. This is good for you as well as the company, and not just because we love to feel like we are being listened to. Being able to give incisive feedback about a company’s triumphs and failures in a way that is diplomatic and backed up by examples is a good skill to have. An exit interview is one of the best opportunities to practice this skill.
If you are inclined to go down this route, then it is crucial that you prep for your exit interview properly. If you want to give feedback about when things have gone wrong in the company’s operations or when things have failed to meet your expectations as an employee then make a list of these specific occasions and jot down a few details in bullet form to refresh your memory. This way, you can back up any statements you make cogently and effectively in the interview room. You are going to look really unprofessional if you call your line manager incompetent or aggressive but can’t recall a specific incident. More common, perhaps is the tendency of the unprepared start on a garbled, lengthy stream-of-thought rant when pressed by your interviewer during your exit survey. Going back to the final-conversation-with-the-ex comparison, you do not want to be kicking yourself about what you could have articulated better when it is over and too late.
If you are clear on what you want to get out of the exit interview before you go in that it can be extremely rewarding for departing employees. You might want to give glowing feedback on a great manager or team member. You may want to highlight a recurring issue that you fear could limit the growth of the firm. If you go in with a useful goal and stick to this goal throughout the survey then it should be very fruitful.
An exit interview can also ensure you leave the company on a positive note, and make sure there are no lingering tensions that might affect the content of your reference. This is the final impression that your bosses will have of you. So the exit interview is the last opportunity to make an excellent impression and part your company with, yes, honesty but also dignity, diplomacy and respect for others.
Exit interviews are a fantastic opportunity for companies to get a better insight into where they are succeeding and what areas they need to work at too. As this human resources article discusses, you will rarely hear employees being as frank as they are likely to be during an exit interview. What they have to say may be a revelation. It might confirm a suspicion you have about where things could be improved with the firm.
Alternatively, a departing employees’ comments might highlight why this individual was not suited for a long term career with your company. Understanding why a person is leaving might give you the information you need to hire a person with more longevity next time.
Clearing up any tensions and making sure bridges are not completely burned is also just as useful for companies as employees. Deeply dissatisfied former staff can be dangerous, and severely damage your reputation in terms of word of mouth, especially when it comes to hiring premier candidates to fill new posts. A well handled exit interview that ends on a positive note can help avoid this scenario, even when a person is leaving because they were fundamentally unhappy in their role.
If a truly talented individual is leaving and you would like them to consider returning one day then the exit interview is also the perfect opportunity to make this clear in a more formal setting than leaving drinks down the pub.
Whether employee engagement surveys could deliver better or supplementary feedback to the exit interview is an interesting question. Exit interviews can be emotional. An employee may feel more at ease being honest in an online survey than face-to-face with their bosses. Feedback is also easier to digest and process if it is in writing rather than embedded in the nervous (or perhaps irate) ramblings of an employee in an interview situation. These surveys are fully customisable so you can create your own questions too.
Every company in the world has a culture of some description. Such “culture” is the environment in which an organisation’s aims are pursued. It is an important force. Business gurus consistently argue that a company with a healthy, inspiring, creative work culture and an excellent strategy will reach its full potential, whereas a company with an unhealthy, lacklustre culture and an excellent strategy will probably do well, but will not perform as well as it could.
Shawn Parr, CEO of San Diego-based innovation and design consultancy Bulldog Drummond, articulated the relationship between culture and strategy beautifully in a recent article published in psfk: “Culture is the field on which the strategy plays. A vibrant and functional culture is like a blanket that embraces, protects, and nurtures the strategy. A company without a strategy lacks direction. A strategy without a culture that understands or embraces it is like a sports team without spirit.”
“Creativity” could probably be added before “culture” in order to pin down its essence. Culture is the environment that allows ideas to emerge and grow in a firm. Unfortunately, as Parr discusses in the aforementioned article, nurturing a creative work culture is often bottom of the list of priorities, even in high-flying, professional firms. Many large corporations are run by people with skillsets relating to finance, the law and other “rational” subjects. Creative culture, which is an emotional, intangible, organic beast, can be decidedly out of the comfort zone of these high flyers. As a result, creative culture is often an avoided or even ignored subject.
That said, even small companies or exciting new startups can find their company’s creative energy being sapped, as an interesting article published in Inc discusses. Experts offer a number of solutions. They include doing away with vacation policies and offering unlimited holidays to employees, and making working from home an option. Endless meetings are often criticised for being a waste of time and preventing employees from getting on with work. However, they are also incredibly bad for an individual’s creative energy. Giving team members plenty of feedback, even on an informal basis at the end of the day, is a good way of getting the creative juices of your staff going.
So what else is in the recipe for creating the elusive creative environment that so many HR gurus insist will give companies a creative edge? According to this article in Medium magazine it is not the “creative individual” per se. Alf Rehn, the management professor who wrote the piece, claims that this mythical creature is perceived to be the key to how creative a company is. Creative success is then the ability of an organisation to create as many “creative individuals” as they can with the highest creative capacities possible. However, Rehn argues that companies with plenty of creatives can still fail to be creative. According to the management professor, having an environment conducive to group creativity is far more important.
The latest research does indeed seem to be looking more in this direction. For example, Keith Sawyer has explored the notion of “group genius”. Sawyer’s thesis says that all creativity is group creativity even when it seems like it is traceable to one outstanding individual. Joshua Wolf Shenk has focused on the “powers of two” in his literature. Similarly to Sawyer, he argues that all the most impressive art and science innovations spring from collaboration rather than individual genius.
So how does this idea of group creativity tie in with the working environments of today’s businesses? If you subscribe to the theories of Rehn, Sawyer and Shenk then nurturing an environment for group creativity and the exchange of ideas is the priority, not making individuals creative. According to Rehn, that means hiring more pragmatic people who have strong constructive criticism skills rather than just taking on the most creative people. This is because group creativity thrives on devil’s advocates as much as individuals bursting with ideas.
HR practitioners may find it tricky to create the ideal environment for group creativity in the modern age: millennials are commonly charged with being terrible team players. But perhaps they just take a bit more convincing when it comes to the power of collaboration. Millennials struggle to handle criticism, according to research, so they may be disheartened if a “constructive criticiser” in their department pours cold water on their latest brainwave. However, if your organisation makes clear that this is part of the process, and an important aspect of the creative process, then this can help bring creative millennials on board.
Millennials also need plenty of feedback, so informal discussions to discuss ideas and how they are progressing on a regular basis are a good way to kill two birds with one stone; yes, you are giving that individual feedback. But by debating their ideas you are also engaging in group creativity!
Social media as a potential recruitment tool for companies is nothing new. But research indicates that both job seekers and companies that fail to look beyond LinkedIn are missing a trick.
A fresh study on social recruitment by the web-based employment software firm iCIMS (http://www.icims.com) has found that many job seekers browsing for posts on social media are misinformed. According to the research, candidates cited LinkedIn as the top social media resource for employment openings. However, just 23% of jobs posted on social media are actually on LinkedIn. Moreover, research indicates that many of the jobs posted on Linked in target people earning more than £50,000 and over the age of 25.
Only one percent of candidates participating in the iCIMS study said they would expect to see a job advertised on Twitter. In fact, around 51% of new openings are Tweeted. Twitter enthusiasts in the HR industry argue that successful use of hashtagging can help firms to reach out to target candidates. Compiling a list of keywords and hashtags that potential job applicants search for is a good way of making contact with the right people. Posting at the time of day that target candidates are on Twitter is also important.
The study’s findings, based on 60,000 openings posted on social media, also reveal that employers need to make efforts in social recruitment beyond LinkedIn. Potential candidates look for postings on Facebook and Google+ after LinkedIn. Interestingly, Facebook came top in terms of conversions. That is, the number of people who saw a job advertised and actually applied for it. Jobs posted on Google + get four times as many views as they do when they are posted on other social media platforms. This gives Google + the added bonus of being great for brand awareness.
Image-based platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest should also not be overlooked. The research found that some candidates use these to get an insight into a company’s culture and make a more informed decision about they would be right for them. It is worth pointing out that Facebook is the perfect platform for giving candidates a positive impression about what it is like to work for your company. Social Media Today recently published an interesting article, which details how Nestlé’s UK projects a fun image of the company through its Facebook page, snapping moments like their Christmas jumper day. (http://www.socialmediatoday.
Some recruitment specialists have also been critical of LinkedIn’s limitations, even for members with paid subscriptions. In 2014, the platform came under fire for removing the function that allowed LinkedIn Recruiters to send out mass mails to members of their groups (http://www.winningimpression.
Finally, it is important that HR gurus learn to think like millennials. These Generation Y candidates, born between 1982 and 2000, are the most relevant target when we talk about recruiting talent on social media. Top Generation Y professionals are simply not trawling for posts on job sites. They are already employed. However, they may seek to research and engage with companies via Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites.
Bottom line: if you think like your candidates, learn way they go and take the conversation about opportunities to them, talking in language they respond to, then you should start to see results.
One of the biggest buzz words sweeping through the HR industry at the moment is Millennials in the workplace. But who are millennials, and are they a good thing?
Millennials are people who were born in the 1980s and 1990s and entered the workplace around the year 2000. Born between 1982 and 1994 and the children of the Baby Boomer generation, the millennials are often perceived as having been raised on mass media, digital technology and lots of positive praise. A common point of contrast is Generation X, which refers to people born after the post-World War II baby boom. Historians generally define their birth dates between the early 60s and early 80s. They first started entering the workplace in the 1980s and started to become influential in the 1990s.
Now that millennials have entered the workplace, their presence has triggered intriguing debates about their skills and weaknesses, and how these patterns are a reflection and outcome of the unique moment in time that millennials occupy.
Let’s start with the bad news. Millennials, or Generation Y, are not good team players, according to research. A recent study published by EY found that millennials scored badly when it came to working with others. The study was based on the testimonies of over 1,200 professionals, which focused on participants’ views of their peers. Just 45% said that their Generation Y peers were good team players. Millennials also seem to be failing to establish themselves as grafters. In the EY survey, just 39% identified millennial peers as hardworking.
Another study by the Oklahoma-based international staffing firm Express Employment Professionals found that Millennials display “an over-inflated sense of self” and “lack of commitment”.
This is not to mention the relentless anecdotal testimonials that you will hear from businesses across all sectors that Millennials have poor spelling, grammar and basic numeracy skills compared with older generations. That they are less equipped to cope with criticism because they used to get straight As at school due to grade inflation. That they need greater praise and feedback for their work, having become accustomed to endless “pats on the back”, rewards and progress updates during their education years. That they also lack adequate attention spans and are easily bored, the fallout of living in a world awash with technological and social-media based distractions.
Furthermore, millennials have a reputation for wanting a lot of takeaways from their work: not just work-life balance but also flexible working, a collaborative working environment and the warm fuzzy feeling that their work makes the world a better place.
Nonetheless, there is also powerful evidence that millennials are extremely valuable in the workplace. The technological skills of this digitally plugged-in generation are highly prized. Seventy eight percent of respondents in the aforementioned EY survey said that millennials were the most tech-savvy. Seventy percent thought they had good knowledge of leveraging social media opportunities. Millennials are also thought to be extremely enthusiastic additions to a team.
Generation Y is good at critical and creative thinking too. This is probably a product of changes in Western education systems, which now have greater emphasis on cultivating these skills. Some evidence suggests that millennials are less motivated by money, which makes them potentially better value for money. An online survey by Monster.com in 2009 found that only 17% saw “compensation” as their main motivating factor, compared with 37% citing work-life balance. Finally, many have entered the job market during times of recession, which has made them competitive, and more willing to go the extra mile to gain employment and keep it.
Millennials are more genuine than previous generations of workers. Research suggests that they desire success for their personal development rather than just for the sake of “getting ahead”. Experience and wisdom are the things that they respect. Rather than just power. If Generation Xs can be accused of “brown-nosing” or using sycophantic manipulation tactics on their senior colleagues to get ahead, then Generation Ys are less likely to display these tendencies.
Another advantage that perhaps gets unfairly overlooked at times is the fact that Generation Ys are more highly educated than Generation X in higher education terms. More Generation Ys have one or more degrees. They have learned skills like processing complex information, critical thinking, discipline and argument through their studies.
Generation Y Advantages:
Creative and critical thinkers
Value for money
Impressive higher education credentials
Generation Y Disadvantages:
Not great team players
Poor basic literacy and numeracy skills in some cases
Not great with criticism
Need constant feedback with work
More demanding in terms of “what they get out of work” such as flexible hours
There is no doubt that 360° Feedback or multi-rater feedback suffers a mixed press. How is it that some organisations champion its use and others are sceptical of any benefit at all from the process?
The research over the years in general points to minor gains from the use of 360° Feedback, and yet it continues to grow in use and popularity. So where is the disconnect?
There is no doubt that part of the issue is related to what is used (the science; validity and reliability of the instrument) and part to the way it is used (the art; integration into company culture, organisation feedback fitness, communication strategy, time availability of respondents etc. etc.). In general most research tends to focus on the what. We firmly believe that in most cases the art trumps the science in terms of the negative impact it can have on the process.
Organisations that use 360 degree feedback as both an employee development tool and a performance appraisal tool may think they will enjoy all the benefits of a closed loop, efficient system that measures, informs and helps to develop all layers of the business, however they should think again.
As a development tool, 360 degree feedback focuses on competencies and behaviours and is designed to breed a culture of continuous improvement. Appraisals on the other hand are a measurement of overall contribution and productivity and are directly linked to salary increases, bonuses and other rewards.
Dissatisfaction and negativity can spread like a virus through an organisation, and if your company catches a cold it can be a costly matter to resolve. But how to keep employees well motivated, happy and healthy in today’s marketplace?
Nowadays many businesses operate almost constantly in red alert mode, driving their employees hard against deadlines and causing their businesses to run on adrenaline alone. Running on adrenaline is unsustainable in the long term, however, with stress being one of the biggest causes of illness and depression, it should be of no surprise when employees start to experience ill health and a lack of drive and motivation. If your environment is set permanently to ‘fight or flight’ it will quickly burn through employee energy and goodwill, resulting in an inevitable crash.
Of course from time to time all companies expect their employees to ‘go the extra mile’ and cope with less than perfect conditions, however all take and no give is a sign of a company out of balance and heading for a fall.
So how can you balance the needs of the individual with the goals of the company, particularly in this challenging commercial climate? An employee wellness program provides the key. Far from being fluffy HR practice, employee wellbeing makes sound economic sense. If your employees are healthy, happy and well rewarded, they are positive, which provides the energy to get things done no matter what the odds.
Companies that offer wellbeing packages not only benefit from being able to attract and engage the best available talent, but also from much lower attrition rates whilst having their employees operating at maximum efficiency. The result? An organisation that is able to reach its full potential and grow sustainably.
By providing many of the things your employees need in-house, you help them to focus on the job at hand. This can mean everything from baskets of fruit and healthy lunches through to health and dental care, gym memberships and career development.
Even companies with a limited budget can find ways to better reward their staff for their efforts. An afternoon off in recognition of a goal reached, or as a thank you for pulling out all the stops to meet a deadline, not only helps the employee to feel appreciated, but also ensures that they are well rested and better able to continue to work at their optimum.
By cleverly combining an employee wellness program with regular appraisals and career development, there is a constant cycle of achievement and reward that helps to keep levels of employee motivation and satisfaction at an all time, super productive high.
Following on from our post from last week on Are you a listening organisation? … and how can you test for it? (Part1) below is an infograpic relating to Feedback Fitness.
“Feedback Fitness” reflects the degree to which an organisation can expect to receive thoughtful, honest criticism and praise from its employees. Addressing the level of Feedback Fitness within an organisation can save time, money and frustration as well as significantly improving the quality of data collected from staff and the effectiveness of decisions made from the data.
It is becoming more and more popular for companies to seek the opinion of their workforce, whether it is via the “water cooler” and other informal means, or the formal processes of Engagement, Exit, Culture, Staff satisfaction and other methods of feedback extending to the more personal and emotive systems such as 360 degree feedback.
The individual and collective wisdom of the company is a free and awesome tool that can offer incredible insight and potentially game changing ideas and suggestions. However relatively few organisations take the time to understand the validity of the feedback data, never mind the feedback system, and what they might do to improve it.
There are three factors that influence the quality of any organisational feedback:
1. Feedback Fitness: How giving and forgiving are our staff with those around them
2. Feedback system: How easy do we make it for them to provide feedback
3. Feedback requested: How good are the questions we are asking
1) Feedback Fitness. The ability of individuals and groups to respond honestly, knowledgably and openly. The issues that affect the quality of feedback fitness include;
How engaged is the leadership of the company in encouraging open and honest feedback. Without leadership that “walks the talk” any programme involving the use of feedback will be unlikely to achieve its aims. This means not just actively giving and receiving feedback, but actually being seen to act upon it.
The greater the opportunity for formal and informal systems of feedback within an organisation, the more likely any programme involving feedback will be successful. Where are the opportunities for staff to provide feedback? What are they? How well are they maintained?
The individual skills to both elicit and provide good quality feedback are usually considered a meta –competence (a competence without which any other. What do we need to be good at and why. Competence should be clear and understood throughout the company. It should spring directly from the strategy of the organisation and reflect the culture and the marketplace in which the company is competing.
How much does the company show that it cares and acts upon individual and group opinion. How does It support the growth and development of each member of staff, and how is the development perceived by those taking part?
What, if anything, is measured in terms of the quality and quantity of feedback? How is it communicated? How is it acted upon?
If this article has struck a chord and you would like to know more about testing for Feedback Fitness we’d be delighted to discuss our Behave! model with you. Why not take our free test (3 minutes) to see how Feedback Fit your organisation might be?