Executive Perspectives: Impact of Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is a topic that comes up every time I talk with leaders.  Whether you’re in human resources, finance, IT or in other parts of the organization, the impact of digital and how it’s transforming the way we work is top of mind.  I am partnering with Infor on a series of webinars to help executives gain perspective and insight on many of the ways technology is changing the workplace.

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Please join me tomorrow, July 27th,  for a free webinar with Infor execs, Charles Cagle and Bill Vellante, as we discuss the ways leaders can be ready for the changes.   Register here today.

Driving Business Success: Limiting How Much We Look Back

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 2.41.39 PMSince I’ve been working from my home office the last few years, it strikes me that I don’t drive much anymore.  Well, I drive to the airport a fair bit, but day-to-day driving is a thing of my past.  I was thinking about it because I have young teens who are already anxiously focused on learning how to drive.  When we are in the car, they ask tons of questions about how the car works, what the driving laws are, how other drivers respond, etc.  It struck me that when they asked about mirrors and how often I use them, I really don’t look in my rearview mirror much.  Sure, I use it to check when I’m backing up and going that direction, or to do a quick check to ensure that someone else is not going to hit my car from behind.  What I don’t do is use the rearview mirror to determine my direction or progress driving forward.

So, why do we spend so much time looking back in business when we are trying to drive the organization forward?

I first ran into this thinking when I moved from the HR practitioner/ leader ranks to that of a full-time analyst. The thing that surprised me the most was that analysts tend to do surveys that predominantly focus on what happened in the past as a way to predict the future.  Now, that IS very valuable, however, business leaders don’t necessarily benefit from only looking to the past to determine their future direction or approach.  In fact, there are some clear barriers to predominantly focusing on the business rearview mirror.

Barriers when we look back

  • Best Practice- Analysts and companies provide statistics on the “best practices” of an industry or company.  These are certainly interesting data points to consider in your organization, and I do value these.  However, when we try to adopt some other organization’s “best practice” without understanding what our real business issues are, we run the risk of choosing and implementing a process or solutions that may not apply to our workplace.  It also may not drive the appropriate business results.
  • False Solutions- A trap many leaders bring to a new organization is proposing a solution based on what they did in a prior company.  Similar to the best practice, this false solution may not address any of the current company’s problems.  Time and again, we find leaders pursuing a solution in search of a problem, not the other way around.
  • Failure Focus-  There are nay-sayers in every organization.  The barrier is letting these people get you hung up on what went wrong in prior projects and letting that derail future progress.
  • Excruciatingly Slow Data Analytics-  A majority of organization leaders I talk to say that they do not have access to all the data they have.  This means they have no simple, efficient, accurate way to pull data together in order to make a business decision.  By taking too long to get data on the past, the data becomes stale and can lead to missing out on opportunities to make the organization better today.
  • Future Fear- Showing other leaders that we fear the future is going to influence them in embracing their fears as well.

While there are many other barriers, you get the point that by primarily focusing behind us, we may be missing out on opportunities to excel, to drive the business forward, or to fall behind competitors.  Everything we do should not be a response to someone else’s move.  As leaders, the best thing we can do is suggest new and innovative approaches to process, to thinking and to solutions.

What are you doing today?  Are you looking back, or to the future?  Let me know what techniques you use to move yourself, your team and your organization forward.  Please share in the comments.

Your 2016 Guide to Finding Your Adventure in Business

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 11.21.45 AMThe beginning of each year marks a time when many industry analysts and experts make their predictions.  I could tell you about all the HCM technology trends that came into being in the last couple years like predictive analytics, organizations changing from on-premise solutions to cloud-based solutions, or the constant and continued focus on culture, engagement and wellness.  I could do that, but I won’t.  Enough industry experts have covered those 2016 predictions and there’s no need to rehash them.

Instead, for 2016, I’m interested in what HR leaders can do from a practical standpoint to move the needle in their organization.  What’s my secret to approaching this task?  Combining industry knowledge, personal leadership experience, and a more fun aspect of watching the Tournament of Roses Parade.  It might not sound like a chosen method of guidance, but hear me out and I think you’ll agree that it’s an excellent way to get inspired. Change needs inspiration.

The reason the Rose Parade is inspiring is that it has a theme. Each year, a different theme is selected and all floats have to depict and represent that theme using natural materials such as roses, flowers, seeds, fruit and bark.  These floats are also typically high-tech and computer animated which adds to the fun for the parade-goes and TV audience.  It’s this continuity of thought and execution that leads me to a new way to focus my attention on the business year ahead.

From 1952 and the theme “Dreams of the Future”, 1986’s “A Celebration of  Laughter“, 2003’s “Childrens Dreams, Wishes and Laughter” to last year’s “Inspiring Stories“, I can always relate the selected theme to something I’d like to do or think about in the coming year.  2016 will be no different because the theme is “Find Your Adventure”.

When we think about work, the workplace and the technology that impacts those things, it really is an adventure.  With that in mind, every new adventure needs some guidance to find the way and lead to greater success.


4 Steps to Find (and Define) Your Adventure

  • Add to your arsenal- As leaders, we often find ourselves overloaded and struggling to keep on top of the business at hand.  A great way to start the year is to add simple, intuitive solutions via app that can aid in your productivity and management.  Try apps like Evernote, Asana or Slack and watch the improvements start!
  • Break processes- We all get stuck in ruts. Make 2016 YOUR year to break out at work and personally by altering your decision-making process, processes in your daily routine and more.
  • Seek to inform ONE mind-  How often do we complain at work, yet never seek to change what frustrates us?  Quite often.  We tend to think there is no option to make meaningful changes.  Instead of complaining this year,  seek out one person to inform and try to change their mind about a situation or issue.  You’ll find that once you can convince one person, the others are much easier to bring on board.
  • Analyze everything and tell stories-  With all the talk of technology incorporating predictive analytics, it will only work if you are able to understand and interpret the findings.  If you’re rusty in the analytics department, make this your year to focus on being able to tell a great story based on your data.
Making a difference IS possible.  
Leading change IS possible.  
If you make small, iterative steps, you can reach new heights this year and find your adventure!. Cheers to a prosperous 2016!

Can Professional Writing Harm Your Blog?

bloggingI’m siting here this morning about to head to the airport on a business trip and I’m thinking about this blog.  For the first four years, it was my outlet, my online journal of thoughts.  Sure, I had some posts that were full of research and took many hours to write, but many were just posts of what was in my head in the moment. After a few years, I actually became a professional writer, paid to come up with intriguing, researched articles.  I’m thinking this has harmed my blog.

How so?  Well, one of the most valuable aspects of blogging (and reading blogs) for me is the free-flow of thoughts.  Now, as I’m used to editors who look for specific learning points, referenced materials, or the “proper” process  of having a thesis and then giving examples to either prove or disprove it, it has changed what I post.  I find that many posts I write sit in my drafts for months, even years.  I am hesitant to share because they are not always fully thought out ideas.

The harm in that is that when I used to post them, it would spark comments and collaboration from all the readers.  We became a writing team of sorts.  We were in this together.  We learned from each other.  Well, going forward I am going to do my best to go back to the way things were.  I will continue writing professionally for clients, but on this blog, I will also add in some posts that are more random and that will hopefully spark your interest to join in a conversation.

What do you think?  What do blogs mean to you and do you think they should always point out a fully formed thought?

Weigh In: The Impact of Talent Management Technology Survey is LIVE Now

cropped-H3_HR_Advisor_300x100.pngH3 HR Advisors is proud to launch our first Talent Management Technology Impact survey in conjunction with iPractice (Perry Timms and Adelaida Manolescu). As the reach and impact of Talent Management technology increases, organizations are looking to compare their use to other successful organizations. This survey will measure and compare those impacts.

Please take a moment to respond and to share with all your HR friends and colleagues. Thank you!

Perks and Upgrades: Why Occasionally Spending More Makes Sense

Datsun B210I read an article that said that the Datsun B-210 was voted one of the ugliest cars of all time.  Now, just looking at the picture, it would be hard to argue that it is not one of the ugliest cars.  I’m not sure why they have it pictured with a train, because it certainly was not faster than a train- not even close.  And the color choice?  That 1978 burn orange is really attractive, if you’re into pumpkins.

I know it wasn’t the most attractive car of all time.  But, it certainly had its good points.  My dad actually owned a car just like the one pictured.  It was small and had no frills.  No air, no power anything.  It did come with an AM radio, but that was all.  I’m sure he bought it just to get to and from work.  He was a plant manager at a zinc refinery so it was definitely not a place you would want to take a nice car.  The chemicals from the plant ruined the paint on every car in the lot.  The reason I had the pleasure of riding in the car was that my dad thought it would be the perfect fuel-efficient mode of transportation one summer to travel from St. Louis to St. Petersburg Beach, FL.  That had to be about the longest, hottest, 21 hours in a car I can say I have ever had.  But, it got us to our destination and back home again.

We only kept that car for about two years.  Sure, it was practical at the time, but with a growing family it just didn’t make sense.  And based on the amount of time spent in the car, my parents realized that they needed a few perks and upgrades.

Really, the car is symbolic of choices each of us make every day.  In human resources, are we no different.  The economy is bad.  Is your company in the market for new HR technology?  A new recruiting tool?  Do you need help from a consultant?  I know the tendency is to shy away from spending.  But, that is only good in the short term.  If you buy the “practical but cheap” technology, you can bet you’ll be sorry in a year or two.  The economy will rebound.  Your business will grow.  Then, you’ll be back at square one and having to pay much more than if you negotiate today.

Some people will disagree, but I feel strongly about this.  Invest NOW in your company.  The time is right, the pricing is right.  Think about your next five to ten years, not just about today.

What do you think?  Is your company keeping spending on hold?  Are they spending but buying the practical or cheaper technology?  Or, are they visionaries who are taking a little risk and investing in the company’s future?  I’d love to hear in the comments.

Do Features Trump Attitudes in Workplace Mobility?

chairMy son is winding down his baseball season.  Baseball at the 11U level can be energizing, invigorating, heart-breaking and flat out tiring.  As a parent, you trek far and wide with a car load of 11 year old boys all talking a mile a minute.  They talk about the team they are about to face, the latest Pokemon cards traded or the most recent conquest in Call of Duty.  It’s a dusty, dirty, sweaty mess of boys and I love every second of it.

One of the reasons I enjoy it is that I have the perfect folding chair.  Now stay with me for a moment…I know that little league baseball, folding chairs and business may not seem to have a direct link, but I believe they do.  You see, I spend a lot of time watching games and sitting, so the chair is important.  Not only is it a place to put my body, it’s turned into a whole functional experience that is fully accessorized for each occasion.

The chair I have is from Gander Mountain and it is more than a chair and the traditional cup holder.  In fact, it has a full cooler that drops down and loads of pockets so that I can stock it with drinks, snacks and all my electronic gadgets.  It’s also mobile so that I don’t have to be relegated to the bleachers at the game, I can take my light-weight chair and move it based on the environmental conditions.  I can get the best view, avoid or seek sun and most importantly, choose who to sit near.  The truth is that I usually sit somewhere near home base and often, by the same people.

Imagine if we had that flexibility at work with our work environment.  It’s not a novel concept.  In fact, organizations have been trying to find the best way to offer mobile furniture options and configurations for over 15 years.  While some are successful, many are not.  It’s not because the furniture doesn’t have the right features or ease of movement, it’s because even though employees ask for mobility, once they settle in, they really don’t want to move.  We become tied to the people and location where we perform the act of work, whatever that is.  We tend to rely on the people around us to say hello every morning, to discuss the same tired stories, and to eat our lunch or take our breaks at the same time too.

So is the issue lack of organizations offering flexibility and mobility or is it the fear of the people?  What if we assume it’s the latter?  How does that change your approach when you think of the workplace in the future?  What changes would you put in place to truly encourage greater partnership, collaboration and movement within your organization?  How would you move the people with the “right” skills around the organization most effectively?

It turns out that all the features, options and mobile workspaces won’t change the attitudes of your workforce.  You have to start at the core….when you hire.  You have to bring people into the organization who embrace a spirit of work flowing through the organization rather than being “owned” by specific departments or divisions.

How does this look in your workplace?  Do you have a truly collaborative and innovative workplace?  If so, share it in the comments.  If not, why do you think it’s not that way and can it adapt to the changes in work styles that are coming in the next 5 years?  If change can’t happen, will you just wind up with fancy folding chairs that don’t help the overall future of work?

Do You, or Your Company, Screw Up Meetings?

no_meetings_funny_office_saying_sticker-r8f98b046a5c14c4eb859a1553d1b3360_v9waf_8byvr_512A friend recently shared a funny video about conference calls and what they would look like if they were in person.  It’s made the social media rounds, but was still good for a laugh one more time.  It got me thinking about meetings… specificaly conference calls, since I work from home.  I pulled up my calendar and just looking at 2015, it appears I spend anywhere between 10- 50% of my week sitting in some type of meeting.

Like many jobs, the meeting has turned into the commonly accepted way of disemminating information as well as a way to bring people together.  The issue is that it has become the most irrelevant mode of communication for many reasons.  Here are just a few:

  • Employees don’t have time to get their other work done.  I don’t know about you, but when I am stilling in a meeting or on a call, there is no way I can do anything else.  I sit there the whole time thinking about all the other work I need to be doing, especially if I’m one of the people in the meeting who doesn’t really need to be there.  This leads me to…
  • The wrong people are invited.  How many meetings are you asked to attend and when you walk out (or hang up) you’re thinking “Why was I just in that for an hour?”  All the time!  Meeting organizers need to think long and hard about who is invited.  As a rule of thumb, if you don’t plan on the person making a verbal contribution to a decision, don’t invite them to the call.  Find another routine way to send information for those who need to know, but don’t need to make the decision.
  • The meeting takes too long.  I was listening to a show about the TED talk recently and they said that TED landed on the 18 minute presentation because it’s about how long an adult can remain focused without drifting to thoughts of something else.  Seems about right when I think of my own attention span at a meeting.  Try this….make your next meeting 18 minutes.  Your colleagues will thank you and be much happier to attend any future meetings you organize.
  • Speaking of time….it doesn’t end when it’s over.  One of my biggest pet peeves in work life is that meetings are scheduled for an hour.  Often, even if the agenda has been gone through, people still hang in there and add more.  We’re all adults here.  If you tell me we’re going to talk about these four things and we finish, end the meeting.  Employees have 20 other things on their plate they can go back and work on.  Don’t drag out what isn’t necessary.  If this means that one meeting is 18 minutes and the next is 31, great.  At least you won’t be keeping everyone the full hour.  I used to have a boss that would say he was “gifting” the time back to us.  I love that and always walked out with a smile on my face.
  • Distractors ruin the moment.  This is a BIG no-no in my book.  If you’re leading the meeting and a person (or two) derail the meeting with nonsense, stop them.  It’s disrespectful to everyone to let that happen.  We’re not all here for fun and chit-chat, it’s work.
  • Late people interrupt the flow.  This is a related cousin of the last one.  If you’re arriving within 2 minutes of the start time, ok.  Anything after that, just don’t come.  You disturb the flow of the conversation and distract everyone.  ESPECIALLY on conference calls…”DING!” Trish has now entered the call.

When I worked at PwC, I had a good policy that if I attended a meeting and I was clearly not needed, I’d discretely get up and leave.  After making it known to colleagues not to invite me if I wasn’t needed, I had fewer meetings to attend.  The ones I attended, I was able to weigh in and add my ideas.  The rest….well, somehow the company still ran without me in them.  It all worked out.

What are your tactics for managing through the meeting madness?  Share them in the comments.