Author Archives: Jocelyn Pick

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How to Build a Skills Framework for Your Organization

A skills framework comprises a matrix, mapping skill to roles and tasks inside your organization. Depending on your needs, the skills framework can be a standalone framework or part of a larger, competency framework. In either case, it represents a valuable asset that can guide your organization’s hiring, recruitment, and internal development strategy.

Building one is well worth the investment for most organizations, but if you’re going to do it, it’s important to take the time to do it well. Finally, any skills framework must map to the organization it’s for. While you can purchase a skills framework, you’d want to customize it to your organization’s needs and specific roles.

Defining skills needed across your organization allows you to hire and train for those skills, measure those skills, and determine which other competencies contribute to success in a role.

Start with a Standardized Framework

Most organizations will require the same basic skills or competencies as other organizations. Even if you require fairly heavy customization, buying a standardized framework will likely considerably reduce strain on budget. Most competency frameworks include skills frameworks and role mapping as a matter of course. You can also choose a skills-only framework that simply maps skills to roles, giving HR a good idea of what they need and what hiring managers across their industry are looking for.

Once you have a framework, it’s important to customize it, to make adjustments to your organization’s specific roles, and to ensure that the framework is integrated into performance management, hiring, and training. Popular frameworks include SFIA, OECD, IAEA, and others. In most cases, it’s a good idea to go over options with your talent or assessment provider to ensure you have a good fit.

Measure Work and What is Performed

Chances are, your organization already conducts yearly or even quarterly performance reviews. In this case, you already collect the data you need to see who is doing work and where. Here, it’s important to look at actual production and output, as well as total team performance in terms of creativity, collaboration, etc.

If you don’t have performance review in place or only collect limited data, you likely have to start out by talking to team leads and managers to collect this data.

  • Identify key performers in each role
  • Identify the lowest performers

This step is more important if you’re working towards a competency framework but is valuable for skills as well. A simple DiSC performance analysis can help you fill gaps if you don’t have work data on hand.

Conduct Interviews Across Your Organization

The easiest way to see what people need to perform work is to ask them. For most organizations, this means:

  1. Grouping roles into types
  2. Identifying specific roles across the organization
  3. Prioritizing roles (where do you start, why) (some roles will serve as bases for others, some should be finished sooner for hiring purposes, etc.)

In most cases, the more people you interview for each role, the better your eventual framework will be. Different people see their roles in different lights, use different words to explain their role, and may even take on more aspects of a role than another person.

  • What skills does the person use in their daily work?
  • Which do they use occasionally?
  • How do they rank those skills?
  • How do managers and team leads rank those skills

You can also sit down with a team to discuss roles, including what they see as the most important aspects and skills for that role. Group perspectives can be just as valuable as input from the person actually doing the role, because you learn what others rely on that person to do and why.

You also want to look at:

  • What skills (if any) do people in roles think are missing?
  • What skills do people in leadership think are missing?
  • Are skills in place to meet changing role requirements? Even if those haven’t happened yet?
  • Are roles changing and if so, how much? What input do the people in those roles have?

Eventually you’ll end up with a general list of skills for the role, which you can prioritize based on importance. Prioritization allows you to improve using skills for hiring, because you know what’s necessary and what’s nice to have.

Map Skills to Productivity and Performance

It’s important to pay attention to people who perform well in performance reviews. It’s also important to interview people who perform badly. Why? It allows you to map out skills based on performance so you can see if skills gaps contribute towards performance gaps. In many cases, performance gaps will relate to stress, mental health, and competencies. It’s important to take all these factors into account.

  • What skills, or soft skills, are present in high performers that aren’t present in low performers?
  • What skills gaps exist in the company? Does this relate to performance?

Mapping skills to productivity and performance will help you to determine which skills are important, which aren’t important for the role, and which actively impede performance when they aren’t there.

Here, it’s very helpful to look at people who have been with the organization for a long time who might be in roles that have evolved over time and who might not have the skills needed for the role. You also want to look at people who might have been hired on without necessary skills who either learned (or didn’t) those skills while on the job.

This kind of research will give you a very clear picture of what is impactful on hiring, what needs to be taught to improve performance, and what your strategy should be.

Create Processes to Maintain Your Framework

Once you’ve created your framework, it’s important to establish processes to ensure ongoing maintenance and validation. Chances are, you’re hiring an external team to come in, handle interviews, create a framework, and customize results to your organization. It’s largely not feasible to do so internally, unless HR suddenly has a large amount of free time or you’re willing to bring in freelancers.

In either case, you’ll have to either establish an ongoing relationship with those teams to update work as your organization and technology changes or implement internal processes to ensure that work maintenance is ongoing.

  • Who is responsible for maintaining and updating roles and skills?
  • How does HR find out when technology used in teams changes? E.g., if the organization moves from Ruby on Rails to Python, job descriptions have to change with it.
  • How does HR validate skills? Can skills be mapped to performance during reviews? Can progress be mapped to validate teaching new recruits and existing employees’ skills?
  • Are programs in place to close skills gaps?

If you don’t have internal processes to maintain and validate your skills framework, it will quickly lose value. Most organizations change fairly rapidly with new tools, new roles, and new teams regularly introducing change. HR must be able to keep track, update the skills framework as needs change, and continue to hire for and train for the skills actually needed by the organization.


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The Top 10 Transferable Skills to Look for in Your Next Candidate

Transferable skills are something of a hype, but they can help new hires to navigate roles, to move between roles seamlessly, and to adapt as the organization changes.

Today’s digital organizations are dynamic, constantly changing, and often reorganizing. Not only are roles quickly made and then removed within a decade, but employees are asked to fit versatile roles inside organizations.

Communications teams are often no longer made up of a graphic designer, writer, and editor, but rather three people who do all three equally well, with a bit of specialization in one or the other.

This shift changes how people work. It also changes what they need to succeed in a role. 30 years ago, when most “standardized” job requirements were set, employees were still planning to work 40 years and retire with the gold watch from a single company.

Today, most organizations expect people to stay for shorter periods where individuals will move on or be asked to leave as technology, roles, and department change or the company asks new things that old people cannot provide.

The workaround, is, of course, to hire people who can make those changes with the company, taking on education and adapting to new technologies and new job roles. As long as the qualifications remain the same, the only thing your employees need are a core set of soft skills they can transfer between roles.

Communication

Communication is the most common requested skill on job posts. It helps teams work together, it ensures good listening and speaking skills, and it means people understand conflict resolution. Nearly everyone will say they’re good at communication on their resume. The thing is, most people have no real idea of what good communication is.

Communication is a vague idea encompassing a broad scope of soft skills, all of which are equally as important. You can ask for communication, but it’s important to test and assess for applicable skills. These include emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, verbal communication, and written communication.

Your organization will likely prioritize different aspects of communication depending on work methods, team size, hierarchy, and where people work. Therefore, it’s important to make your own list and assess based on your organization’s long-term needs.

Technological Literacy

It’s easy to look for someone who is certified in one technology or another. But tooling changes. Just because someone is competent at the tools you use now doesn’t mean they will be when you change to a different framework in 3 or 6 years.

Instead, you should look for people who can easily adapt to and learn new technology. This is relatively easy to look for because a) the person exhibits willingness to utilize new tooling as part of an interview, b) already lists multiple tools and types of tools on their resume, c) adapts to and navigates new digital interfaces (such as your digital assessment portal) with relative ease.

Individuals who can confidently approach and learn new software and digital tools will long-term be more cost-effective and more effective inside your organization. This is important whether you’re already planning to switch tooling, think your operating system might upgrade during their tenure, or think your role will change and might require adding on new tools and tasks.

Teamwork

Teamwork is another standard job requirement, and is, again, difficult to test for. Most hiring managers rely on asking about previous experience in teams. Yet, for many teams, teamwork should be about interaction, collaboration, making friends, and connecting with new people.

This is especially important in small, mobile teams, where people frequently have to collaborate with people outside their team, to engage and get to know others quickly, and to move between teams easily. Open office days, where candidates come into the office and you can see how they perform and work in new environments is one great way to test this.

Sharing Feedback

Criticism and feedback are difficult but crucial elements of navigating change, moving between teams, and learning and adapting to new things. Teams should be able to steer the direction of technology and the company by providing insight, feedback, and criticism. This also applies to a one-on-one level, where people need to be able to share feedback in constructive ways in order to build relationships and work together.

Why is this important for navigating change? People need to be able to move into new things critically and with an eye for improvement, rather than simply taking on any new thing. This extends to people, tools, technology, and business products.

Leadership

Not everyone needs to be a creative, thought, or people leader. But most people should exhibit leadership in some way. Leadership, in the sense of being able to connect to and drive or motivate people is one of the most valuable skills in any organization. Many people reflect it in vastly different ways.

For example, some are good at strategy and numerical thinking, others are good at empathy and have a high emotional intelligence, and others are good at getting people onboard to new projects.

Actual team leads need to be good at all of them, but most people should exhibit some of these traits. Why? It helps them to be effective and productive in teams, even when moving between teams, changing roles, and working on their own. It means they can take charge of some aspect of their work and be responsible for it with little to no accountability and they can pass that on to others.

Time and Project Management

Time and project management are must-haves for most modern roles. Top-down management is fading into the past and people are more-often required to be accountable for what they do when and how. This means looking for people who know how to prioritize, who can organize projects, and who can properly manage their time to achieve the things they want in a day.

Good time and project management means that someone will be good at those skills, even when the job they are doing completely changes.

Personal Drive/ Motivation

Personal drive and motivation are essential for navigating changing roles. Someone who goes on autopilot and does the bare minimum every day is going to flounder when change takes place. That person will never actively learn the things they need to succeed in a dynamic work environment. And, they’ll adapt more slowly than motivated colleagues.

Personal drive and motivation usually show up in enthusiasm for the role and work completed, a history of personal development, willingness or eagerness to learn new skills, and someone who sees a new role as an adventure with a new company.

Commercial Awareness

While no employee has to have an in-depth knowledge of their industry, it’s extremely positive if they do. If your employee is moving into a new industry, it’s also difficult to expect them to have more than a basic knowledge of the industry.

However, they should have some knowledge of your company and what they do. People who aren’t interested enough to perform basic research will never be interested enough to follow the industry, to follow changes and trends, or to adapt to those changes and trends as they happen.

Commercial awareness is a positive thing in most roles, because it means the candidate can actively suggest and participate in the change that keeps the company alive.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking, or the ability to analyze concepts and ideas (typically against a standard of quality or rationality), helps employees in most roles. It can help individuals in changing roles because it means they can approach new things and new ideas critically and rationally.

So, when your candidate is shifted into a new team because the one he was onboarded to is downsizing, the new team can hand him an idea and he examines it and learns to understand it.

Critical thinking is a broad term that can be broken into concepts like analysis, asking questions, understanding new concepts, etc. You should define what it means to your organization when prioritizing testing for it in assessments.

Adaptability

How well does your candidate function without routines? How well do they function moving from one tool to another? Can they adapt to new technology, new people, new work methods, new workspaces, quickly? Some people cannot.

While these people won’t necessarily be bad for a role, you wouldn’t want to put them in a small team designed to tackle a 6-month project before dissolving and forming a new team to tackle another project. Adaptability is key to moving with digital changes.

Your organization’s needs, rate of change, and industry will determine how important employee adaptability is. This means transferable skills might be very important in the context of transferability or not at all important.

It’s crucial to assess internal needs and to create a matrix or other prioritization method before hiring. At the same time, many of these skills are transferable because they are, at least partially, learned through experience and training. If people have potential, they can develop those skills.

Once you have someone with these highly transferable skills, you have someone who can easily move to a new role inside your organization when theirs goes away, who can adapt to new tools and new people, and who can succeed in whatever environment they end up in.


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How Team Dynamics Change When You Don’t See Each Other Every Day

Organizations have resisted digitization and the move to flex and remote work for years. Many claim the need for personal contact for collaboration and teamwork. IBM is a clear example, with its 2017 reversal of a flex work policy, citing that employees needed to see each other to collaborate effectively. Others have embraced that change and adopted flex work policies as quickly as those options became available. Organizations like Google, Dell, Humana, and Sodexo all offer flex work. Today, most office-based organizations are forced into it in one way or another. Adapting to that change can be challenging, especially as you begin to notice changes in teams and dynamics.

Flex and remote work can be hugely beneficial to many companies. In fact, Dell reports saving over $34 million in costs since implementing flex work in 2014. Flex and remote work have noticeable and measurable benefits for businesses and their employees. People get more free time, spend less time on commute, and are better able to manage their home and work life together. Organizations see happier, more loyal, and often more productive employees. But, what happens to teams when they don’t see each other every day? And how can you work to improve team dynamics when most employees see each other a few times a week at most?

Distance Creates Isolation

Teams shifting away from working together in a single room and towards working from home face severe challenges with isolation. Here, the largest fear is that teams stop collaborating and talking to each other and instead shift to performing top-down tasks handed to them by managers. Without proper communication tooling in place, this is a valid concern. People need to see each other to communicate and collaborate.

If teams are working from home every day of the week, it’s important to establish standardized lines of communication. Most can benefit from tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams, with individual channels for teams to share and talk to each other. Others may want to use a less traditional approach with Discord or another voice-chat tool, so teams can join in on group calls and literally talk to each other “across the table” like they would when working normally.

Here, cloud tooling is also essential. Teams working together in the same documents, apps, and cloud folders see what the other is doing, can collaborate, and can engage. That’s a far cry from the lone developer coding in his office by himself used as the common picture of the remote worker.

Personal Differences are Less Important

Teams working together in person are much more likely to experience clashes related to personality and ethos. It’s harder to dislike the person who never shuts up in the morning when you’re getting coffee if he’s not there. This can, to some extent, improve how your teams work together.

At the same time, it becomes more important to ensure that teams have the opportunities to build and foster the trust and interdependency required to create strong teams. Some organizations rely on team building exercises to solve these issues. Others allow time and working together on large projects to foster these relationships. And, if teams are moving to remote work from working together in-office, the problem won’t be building trust but maintaining routines and communication.

Problematic Dynamics Become More Evident

Many teams face major issues relating to team dynamics. Leaders want too much control. Everyone wants top down leadership. Everyone follows group consensus. A few people don’t get along. Fostering good leadership and building balanced teams becomes even more critical when those teams lose the ability to collaborate in person.

Solving these issues may require restructuring your teams into smaller, more balanced units. A team analysis report can help you identify issues and move forward. It’s also important to look at leadership methods and their suitability for transitioning to flex work. Remote leaders need high levels of emotional intelligence, flexibility, and ability to delegate not just tasks, but goals.

Teamwork Relies on Standardized Processes, Not Hierarchy

Remote teams are completely reliant on their ability to adopt standardized processes across the team. Flex and remote work teams cannot rely on top down commands from a single team lead because that person may not be available when work is being completed and therefore becomes a bottleneck.

Instead, it’s critical to introduce processes for communication, collaboration, work creation, and work submission. This might mean shifting work to outcome roadmaps rather than feature roadmaps, introducing agile work methods, and organizing all work in a single tool. You need oversight, accountability, and group collaboration to prevent one person from becoming a bottleneck.

  • Where, how, and when does communication happen?  Designate a tool for communication and set times when it’s okay/not okay to message others.
  • How is work done? Does the entire team have a single process? Are processes integrated into tooling?
  • How do teams collaborate? What measures are in place to ensure people are talking and sharing ideas?
  • How is work kept visible across the team? Is everyone working in the cloud?
  • How are work goals and objectives set? Is responsibility and accountability defined?
  • Who’s responsible for each step of work? Are there bottlenecks? Is some work not assigned?

This normally means delivering training, new tooling, and group introductions to standardized processes when switching to remote work. In one 2017 study by Deloitte, only 47% of remote workers surveyed claimed they’d received any sort of training. Yet, 53% of people who did receive training for remote work suggest they’ve actually improved communication and innovation.

What can you do? Implement training sessions for new tools as a baseline. It’s also important for team leads or managers to implement positive feedback. Data shows that teams given several sessions of positive feedback, where they are asked to discuss positive outcomes of their team, new working conditions, and work completed, show increases in positivity, trust, and collaboration.

Setting up weekly sessions to discuss how remote or flex work went, focusing on praise and positive aspects of doing so, and setting positive goals for the next week can be an important part of establishing and reinforcing flex work as a means of improving work.

Remote Work Can Actually Improve Collaboration and Productivity

While modern office trends have pushed towards working together and large, open, creative spaces, these can actually hurt team collaboration and creativity. One study by Harvard shows that open offices decrease focus, overexpose individuals to the people they’re working with, and create feelings of a need for privacy and the ability to work alone.

Giving people time to themselves, such as when working in a remote or home office, reverses this trend. When people do see each other, either over a video call or in person, they’ll be much less over exposed and much more able to work together.

Dell, following a 6-year experiment with flex work, says that 80% of their employees believe they’re actually more productive when they work from home for some or all of the week.

Eventually, remote work can be beneficial for everyone involved. While it forces organizations to create structure with processes, flex work allows employees to take more control over their personal lives and their work. Remote work does require building teams that work together, follow strict processes, and maintain regular communication. However, it also offers freedom, reduced commute, and better work-life balance for many.


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The business guide to sponsored content

The first printed advertisement in the US was published in The Boston News-Letter in 1704. Since then, advertisements have undergone significant transformation. From television adverts to the rise of influencers ads on social media, the nature of advertising is changing as the world becomes growingly digital.

As a result of these changes, traditional advertising methods such as print adverts or website banner advertising are becoming less effective. Instead, people seem to be drawn more to sponsored content, where advertisements look less like a traditional ad and more like natural editorial content. Research has shown that sponsored content that is educational or informational results in increased brand trust when compared to traditional advertising methods.

In this article, we are taking a deep-dive into sponsored content to provide you with a detailed business guide to sponsored content covering everything from what is sponsored content, to where to find it, how to create sponsored content, and how to improve the performance of content.

What is sponsored content?

Sponsored content is a form of advertising where the advertiser pays a publisher to create and distribute promotional content for them. However, the format of sponsored content, or native advertising, differs greatly from traditional advertising methods. While traditional advertisements are easy to spot due to their format, sponsored content will blend in with the natural existing content on the publisher platform.

For example, sponsored content in a print magazine may appear as a sponsored article or editorial-style advertorial that is consistent style to other non-sponsored articles throughout the magazine. However, a traditional print magazine would be easily recognized as a quarter, half or full-page advert that is an image or text advert promoting the brand.

Sponsored content is a popular form of marketing. By integrating sponsored content into your marketing strategy, you can take positive steps towards increasing brand credibility and, in turn, improving consumer feelings of trust. Sponsored content can also add to the user experience by complementing other published content on the platform, rather than disrupting it. Furthermore, sponsored content isn’t restricted to just one format. This allows you to have more flexibility and creativity with your paid media efforts.

Where can sponsored content be featured?

Sponsored content isn’t just limited to print publications such as newspapers and magazines. In fact, sponsored content can be found on almost any type of content platform. Social media, podcasts, magazines, blogs, television shows, and the radio are all examples of platforms that frequently feature sponsored content.

An example of sponsored content on social media would be an Instagram post by a social media influencer that is promoting a particular brand or product. This type of sponsored content will either be part of a paid sponsorship or an agreement between the advertiser and influencer where the advertiser provides a “free” product in exchange for a post.

In podcasts, you may recognize sponsored content when the podcast host talks about a product they have recently been enjoying and shares a discount code for the listener to try the product for themselves. Whilst this is a more obvious example of sponsored content, some types of sponsored content are less easy to recognize. One example of this would be sponsored content on a blog. Sponsored content on blogs will normally be a guest post by the sponsor, or an article that includes links to the advertisers website, or features their products, services, quotes or infographics in their article.

However, it is worth noting that while all sponsored content will feature a brand, not all brand features are sponsored content. It is normal for natural, non-sponsored content to also contain brand or product recommendations, updates or information.

How to spot sponsored content

If you’ve read an article, listened to a podcast, or watched a YouTube video and seen or heard the words “sponsored by”, “paid post”, “affiliated with” or “promoted”, it’s likely that you’re already familiar with sponsored content. These phrases are clear indicators that the content you are consuming is sponsored content.

Newspaper, magazine or blog articles that are sponsored may also be prefaced with the tag of “advertorial” or “sponsored”. Meanwhile, in sponsored social media content by influencers, you may recognize sponsored content by the use of “ad” or “#ad” in the post caption or video title.

However, sometimes it isn’t that easy to tell if the content you’re consuming is part of a paid-for advertisement. Other things to look out for when trying to identify whether something is sponsored content include:

  • Author name – Check whether the article has been written by the company or an employee of the company
  • Links within digital content – Look for links within digital content that direct readers to the brand website or products
  • Product placement within content – Does a product feature in the article, television show or content you’re consuming? If so, this could be part of sponsored content
  • Brand mentions within content – Check if the content includes brand mentions, surveys by the brand, or quotes from the business employees

By being aware of the different elements of sponsored content, you will be more able to identify sponsored content when you’re next reading a magazine, catching up on a podcast, watching a television show or scrolling through social media. Although, it is important to note that organic content can also sometimes include brand mentions and links.

Advice for creating Sponsored Content for your business

Sponsored content can often be better received by consumers than traditional advertisement due to being less intrusive or obnoxious. Therefore, you may want to consider incorporating sponsored advertising into your wider marketing strategy. If you are thinking about creating sponsored content for your business, there are several steps you can take to make sure you get the most out of your paid media.

The first thing you want to do when planning sponsored content as part of your marketing strategy is to make sure that you align with publications, influencers and content platforms that are representative of your brand and target audience. By distributing your sponsored content on platforms that are in-line with your target audience and your brand values, you will be able to increase the authenticity and credibility of your sponsored content.

Although sponsored content may look more natural than traditional advertising, it is still a form of advertising. So, it is still important that you follow Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines for online advertising and marketing. These guidelines include advice on how to effectively disclose native adverts so as to not deceive your audience.

You should also make sure that your sponsored content aligns with your wider marketing strategy and campaigns. Establishing a cross-platform marketing strategy is great for building brand awareness. By marketing a single message across several platforms you will also make sure that you are making contact with potential customers at every stage of their buyer journey, allowing you to stay fresh in their mind while strengthening trust and affinity.

When it comes to creating your sponsored content, make sure you create engaging content that captures the audiences’ attention. While you don’t want your content to look like “clickbait” or be intrusive, you don’t want it to stand out enough that people stop to read or watch your content. Take time to think about what headline, visuals or topics your target audience will be interested in and use these insights to drive your sponsored content creation.

Sponsored content isn’t just sponsored articles or in-feed native advertisements. If you are looking to deliver maximum impact with your sponsored advertising, then go beyond written content. As mentioned earlier, sponsored content can be delivered in a wide range of formats and across multiple platforms, such as videos, podcasts, radio and social media. Research states that 78% of podcast listeners approve of podcast sponsorships due to the understanding that those sponsorships fund the content they value. Further to this, many listeners also report finding podcast adverts memorable and motivating.

So, if you are looking to deliver sponsored content for your business, you should first develop a sponsored content strategy. Doing so will ensure you get the best results out of your sponsored content.

How to evaluate Sponsored Content performance

Analyzing the performance of sponsored content can be difficult if you don’t know what to focus on. The performance metrics for sponsored content will vary depending on the method and platform used. For instance, the metrics used to analyze the success of sponsored content in a magazine will differ from the metrics used when analyzing the performance of sponsored content on social media.

Therefore, when delivering sponsored content campaigns, you should first determine what metrics you need to analyze to determine campaign success. If your sponsored content campaign includes distributing content on online publications or blogs, your performance analysis may include a report of the number of backlinks gained and the Domain Authority of those linking sites.

For sponsored content that provides a link through to your website, you may also want to analyze your site traffic and conversions during this period. Using UTM tags for your campaign URLs, unique URLs or discount codes can be a good way to determine which site traffic and conversions have come directly from your sponsored content.

Other metrics that can be important when determining the success of sponsored content, especially across social media platforms, include brand sentiment, likes, engagement rate, follower count and reach.

We’re sure that the popularity of sponsored content will continue to grow. So, if you are looking to build trust and authenticity through your advertisements, you may want to consider using sponsored content within your marketing strategy. However, it is important to make sure you are following FTC guidelines and ensuring that your sponsored content provides value to your target audience.


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5 Most Valuable HR Assessments in 2021

HR assessments are designed to automate and optimize skills, competency, performance, and leadership reviews against existing frameworks and databases. HR is increasingly taking on roles including hiring, employee management, leadership training, employee development, talent retention, talent training, and organizational behavior.

Providing human resources teams with assessments gives those teams the tools they need to perform those roles well, highlighting and choosing the best candidates, making decisions based on a wider pool of available data, and using information to guide decision-making. 

Human resources is the pivotal point between your organization and its people, capable of guiding your organization to a better, brighter future. Good assessments aid in that decision-making, providing insight, answers to questions, and automatic type matches that would be difficult to achieve through human intuition alone.

Today, the HR assessment market is mature enough that you can typically find multiple choices for the same types of assessments, with options to custom-build a solution for your organization. The best also offer customization, with talent and assessment firms delivering personalization based on your organization’s employees and specific needs. This allows nearly any HR assessment to fit your business and provide value. At the same time, it’s important to review options, highlight which have the most added value in your organization, and move forward from there. The following include 5 of the most valuable HR assessments for 2021.

360 Feedback 

Checkpoint and other providers deliver thorough employee assessment, not just from people in charge, but also from peers and employees. 360-Feedback or 360-Degree Feedback assessments typically incorporate self-assessment as well as feedback from everyone who works with an individual to deliver a complete picture of the person’s work environment to HR.

360-Degree assessments are most valuable for organizations with a large number of employees who have worked in a company for 1-5 years. Statistically, accuracy drops when individuals are very new or when other employees might have a bias and be motivated to rate their colleagues very well because they know them very well.

How does it deliver value? 360-Degree feedback scores give HR insight into how someone is doing from every perspective. This can aid in personal and development opportunities, team-matching, and in aligning scoring with competencies such as emotional intelligence and self-awareness. The largest benefit is that it helps you to understand what an employee needs to do more in their team, whether that’s new skills, better communication, or nothing at all.

DiSC

DiSC Profiles assess personality and behavior, aligning individuals with 4 major types (D, I, S, or C). These personalities include:

Dominant – People who emphasize results and tend to achieve them in a confident way 

Influence – Individuals who are communicative and good at relationships and influencing or persuading others 

Steadiness – Dependable individuals who value cooperation and sincerity 

Conscientiousness – Those who value quality, accuracy, expertise, and competency over other goals 

DiSC delivers a range of profile assessments inside this framework, helping HR to match employees to roles, to positions inside a team, and to each other. For example, DiSC personalities allow HR to build teams that are able to get others on board, are able to work in a dependable way, value quality and accuracy, and who still have a leader. DiSC is an essential assessment for good teambuilding. 

Many organizations also see value in improving conflict management by helping individuals to better understand their colleagues, in training and personal development (by delivering goals and training the person’s values), and delivering insight to leadership. This can greatly improve how teams function together by helping you streamline communication and team makeup.

EQ-i 2.0

EQ-i 2.0 is an assessment designed to gauge emotional intelligence and how that person’s emotional intelligence interacts in the workplace. Assessing emotional intelligence can be critical to improving it, which in turn adds value to leadership, communication, teamwork, and learning.

Helping individuals to understand how well they control and understand their own emotions can also motivate them to work on and improve that control. Similarly, helping someone see that they aren’t acting or behaving in an emotionally intelligent way is often strong motivation to boost people into improving.

Emotional intelligence is often considered to be one of the most valuable workplace skills. It contributes to communication, interpersonal relationships, and collaboration. Understanding how people score, where they can improve and what they can improve will only help.

Profile XT

Profile XT assessments integrate into nearly every aspect of hiring, pre-screening, work management, role management, and leadership management. XT assessments essentially function as a minimal compliance framework, gauging behavior, skills, thinking, aptitude, and reasoning with over 20 performance indicators. This assessment eventually allows HR to align hiring, to assess individuals for specific roles, and to match candidates to roles and teams. 

This comes into play long-term for teambuilding, as part of performance management, for personal development, and for leadership and succession planning. Essentially, it’s an easy way to integrate a complete compliance assessment into the organization, providing much of the value of looking at competencies, while remaining very accessible.

ESkill

ESkill is one of the largest pre-employment screening and assessment companies in the world. The organization delivers hundreds of role and subject-based assessments, with modular programs designed to adjust to match the needs of multifaceted roles. ESkill also integrates video and computer assessments, so prospective candidates can take assessments in formats that suit the needs of the provider. 

Skills assessments are a hugely important part of hiring, of long-term development, and in role-matching. They ensure that individuals, even in remote and external roles, can immediately step in and take on roles, can perform to the requirements of the role, and can perform despite or to the qualifications listed on resumes. 

HR assessments offer value for hiring managers, to recruiters, and to teams looking to match ideal candidates. They play a role in team building, conflict resolution, communication, and collaboration. And, they integrate into personal development and succession planning, giving HR insight into their people, what they need, and how to deliver those changes. Hopefully these assessment options give you some idea of where to start when selecting your solutions. 


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Which industries should be investing in HR assessments during the pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic has shaken the world of business, turning industries worldwide on their heads. Industries that were booming in 2019 came to a sudden halt in 2020, while other industries have experienced unprecedented growth during the COVID-19 crisis.

These rapid changes caused by the Coronavirus pandemic have highlighted the necessity for rigorous HR practices. During this time, both fast-growing and slow-growing industries have experienced unique challenges that have impacted employee wellbeing and performance. One thing that rings true for both is the need to build capable and resilient workforces.

By investing in HR assessments, your organization can ensure you have the best chance at achieving your business objectives by developing and nurturing a high-performing team. 

According to research conducted by McKinsey and Company, employees—especially women, LGBTQ+ employees, people of color, and working parents—are crying out for more support from their employers following the challenges of the pandemic. Therefore, it is important that your organization is investing in your employees during the pandemic and in preparation for the future.

While employee training is important across all industries, there are some key industries that can benefit significantly from improving their HR strategy. Some notable industries that should be investing in HR assessments right now include:

  • eCommerce
  • Food and Grocery
  • SaaS
  • Healthcare 
  • Travel
  • Hospitality

Fast-growing industries

During the pandemic, some industries have experienced unexpected levels of business growth. Examples of industries that have experienced significant growth during the pandemic include eCommerce, SaaS, and healthcare sectors. This rapid growth will have put a strain on these organizations as they try to keep up with the demands.

As a result, these organizations have put themselves at risk of making poor hiring decisions as they attempt to quickly fill the required job vacancies to reduce delays to their business operations.

Therefore, it is important that these industries now take action to ensure their HR practices are able to withstand unprecedented business growth. Investing in HR assessments can significantly improve business performance for fast-growing industries. Doing so will also minimize the risk of rushed hiring which can be costly to your business.

eCommerce

As malls closed their doors and people were advised to stay home, eCommerce stores saw a significant rise in online orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. The way people shopped changed as the pandemic forced them to shop online, rather than in-store.

In turn, eCommerce businesses have experienced an impressive 146% growth in online retail orders since April 21. This increase in online orders means the eCommerce industry is predicted to have a record-breaking year-on-year growth in 2020.

However, this increase in demand for online shopping means the eCommerce industry has also had to make rapid changes within their business in order to keep up with the demand. As a result, eCommerce retailers have had to hire additional staff to help with order fulfillment and ongoing eCommerce operations including marketing, customer service, website management, and procurement.

Employers in the eCommerce sector can help mitigate the risk of making quick hiring decisions by using HR assessments during the hiring process.

For example, if you are an eCommerce retailer looking to hire additional customer service staff to help manage customer inquiries during the pandemic, you may want to consider asking job applicants to take the Customer Service Profile to determine whether they would be a good fit for the role.

Food and Grocery

Similar to the eCommerce sector, the Food and Grocery sectors have also seen a recognizable increase in revenue during 2020. 

By integrating HR assessments into their wider business strategy, the Food and Grocery industry can move from a “response” business strategy to a “thrive” strategy by ensuring that their business procedures are resilient against rapid, and unprecedented, change.

The Deloitte report into the impact of COVID-19 on the grocery and food sector shows that employers and HR teams in this sector need to redefine their workforce strategy. As part of this workforce strategy, they should also establish a strategy for the possibility of labor shortages and the management of working capital. Working HR assessments into their hiring process can help minimize the risk of hiring poor-fitting employees to cover labor shortages.

Software as a service (SaaS)

The Coronavirus pandemic led to an almost unanimous worldwide shift to remote work. Across the globe, the number of people working from home or remotely in 2020 has increased by 159% since 2005 – more than 11x faster than the rest of the workforce. This growth in working from home has had positive implications for the SaaS industry as organizations need to ensure they are geared up for a remote workforce.

This increased demand for SaaS solutions and cloud-based business software means that companies within the SaaS will have to tighten procedures and increase the level of software development, testing, updates, and technical fixes to ensure that they are able to fulfill new business consumer needs and increased usage due to an increased remote workforce model. 

At the start of the pandemic, the video communications platform Zoom experienced security issues meaning they had to release new security features and improve encryption to counteract the potential risk of providing customers with an insecure platform.

By prioritizing HR assessments during their recruitment strategy, SaaS companies such as Zoom can be sure they hire employees who are technically-minded with a problem-focused attitude. Hiring people with these characteristics lends itself well to being able to trust these employees to work reactively to unexpected change and develop new technical solutions and fixes.

Healthcare 

The healthcare sector is one that has experienced highs and lows during the pandemic. At the start of the Coronavirus crisis, uncertainty around the virus led many healthcare organizations to reduce employment and cut jobs as routine services were to be put on hold. Between February and April, employment in the healthcare industry decreased drastically. However, the employment rate rebounded in May as more than 300,000 jobs were recovered.

While job security in the healthcare sector during 2020 has fluctuated greatly, the on-job pressure for those in work has increased significantly as people are expected to work long, demanding hours in the face of uncertainty.

Therefore, it would be beneficial for HR departments to ensure that they are providing current healthcare employees with ongoing support. As part of this ongoing employee support, HR assessments would allow the healthcare sector to understand how best to communicate with, and assist their employees to provide them with the best chance of success during these stressful times.

Slow growth industries

One thing that cannot be ignored is that some industries have struggled as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. Two notable industries that have suffered throughout 2020 include the Travel and Hospitality sectors. However, these slower-growing industries are expected to pick up again after the pandemic as restrictions are lifted and we gain control over the COVID-19 crisis. 

Therefore, it is important that these industries take action now to ensure they are prepared for an uplift in the near future. Industries that are currently experiencing slow growth, or even decline, should use this time wisely by investing in their teams, upskilling where possible, and preparing for their return in a post-pandemic world.

Travel and Hospitality Sectors

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the travel industry to a standstill. This sudden halt to travel services resulted in major job and revenue loss within the travel industry. Further to this, it is projected that tourism spending is not likely to return to pre-crisis levels until 2024. In light of this information, it is crucial that the travel industry pivot their strategy and focus on how to ensure their success when travel and tourism operations re-open.

The hospitality sector has been similarly affected. With close ties to the travel and tourism industry, the hospitality industry has also been negatively affected during 2020. Research into the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality, travel, and leisure sector found that 65% of women have been furloughed, put on reduced hours, or made redundant. 

One way that the travel and hospitality industry may protect business continuity is by moving towards agile teams that can adapt to real-world needs, rather than being based on organizational entities.

When pivoting to an agile team, it is important that the HR department is best-prepared to build a high-functioning agile team. Ask your current employees to complete HR assessments and personality tests to determine whether they would perform well in a cross-functional agile team.

How we can help

If you are ready to invest in your current employees, or looking for ways to hire top-talent to ensure business continuity and success in the future, we are here to help. Integrating HR assessments into your recruitment process and employee training program will ensure your business remains strong in times of adversity and uncertainty.


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How to conduct an exit interview for maximum insights

An exit interview is an important part of your employee management process, and although it may not save a departing employee, it’s a great time to gain insights into your workforce. However, managers often overlook exit interviews for lack of time, or simply because they don’t see the value of it.

Upon first glance, it’s easy to dismiss the value of an exit interview, since that employee is leaving anyway. However, insights gleamed from that interview can help you improve retention for your other existing employees.

An employee who is leaving anyway has little to hold back, so it’s often a chance to get the most raw, honest feedback about management and general business practices. A good manager understands the value of all employee insight and knows that the feedback of a departing employee may help the company optimize its processes and improve the overall work atmosphere.

Here’s how to organize exit interviews to get the most insights.

The undeniable benefits of an exit interview

The main question that you need to answer: why do you need to conduct an exit interview?

The main purpose of an exit interview is to learn about the gaps in the company’s culture and, based on the answers, come up with the ways to resolve those issues. Whether the employee leaves willingly or unwillingly, there are many things you can learn from them about the company, managers, work process and organization.

Here are the key benefits that a well-organized exit interview brings to the company.

Optimization of HR processes

If the employee decides to leave the company, the exit interview is a great chance to really find out why. Maybe it’s a better salary offer or better bonuses. Or maybe the HR specialist of that company acted in such a way that your employee just could not say no?

The exit interview provides valuable insights into the state of HR-related processes in your company. By asking the right questions, you can learn a lot about your competition and see what kind of improvements your company needs.

Don’t forget to ask about the overall experience from their onboarding process and interaction with your HR specialists. You want to learn about every aspect of their onboarding to find areas for improvement.

Lower turnover rate

The insights from the exit interviews should not be treated only as a recommendation for the future – they can become actionable for improving existing processes.

For example, if an employee stresses the non-professional behavior of a certain manager, you can already start collecting feedback about this person and conduct a few meetings with him. In this way, you can prevent other employees from leaving or transferring for the same reason, as you learn about the root of the problem.

Investment in the company’s image

An employee that leaves the company with negative feelings can easily hurt your company’s image, even without wanting to. When asked about the company, the employee will complain rather than praise it. As a result, such behavior can discourage potential candidates from working with you.

A well-conducted exit interview, on the other hand, can fix the situation and help the employee feel respected and valued. You may not necessarily turn the employee into a lifelong brand ambassador, but at least you can prevent unpleasant situations in the future.

Things to consider before conducting the exit interview

It’s not enough to write down a list of questions – you need to prepare for the interview in advance in order to extract the maximum value out of it.

Choosing the interviewer

Quality of the collected data is one of the biggest issues of exit interviews.

If the employee is dissatisfied with the company’s CEO, will he really open up about it during the interview? Most probably, no. All employees want good references and a negative review of the CEO’s managerial methods will most probably get this employee in the HR “blacklist” and ruin his career.

In order to get really valuable data, you need to do the following:

  • make sure the company’s executives understand the importance of the exit interviews and are ready to implement any changes and accept the possible negative reviews
  • choose the right person for the role of the interviewer

Choosing the right interviewer is incredibly important. If the employee is interviewed by an HR specialist and the CEO, the person will probably feel uncomfortable and will answer the questions as expected. So the best choice would be to assign either an HR specialist or a mid-manager to conduct an interview. A mid-manager is a great choice because s/he is usually “closer” to the employees than the company’s executives and will be able to create a sense of trust during the interview.

Choosing the right time for the interview

Another thing to consider is the time period for the interview. You cannot just schedule a meeting on a random day and send an RSVP invitation via Google Calendar.

Because you want the interviewee to feel comfortable and give honest feedback, you need to schedule an appropriate time for the interview. There are two common approaches.

The first is conducting the exit interview while the person is still in the company – with no “mental checkout” yet. In this way, you will interview the employee while the trail is still hot and will increase the probability of getting honest replies.

The second way is to conduct the interview a month or a few weeks after the employee leaves the company. The biggest benefit to this approach is that the employee will be relaxed, “with no strings attached” and thus, will be much more honest about the decision to leave.

Questions to ask during the exit interview

Before getting down to the questions, it is important to remember that the best way to conduct an exit interview is in person. In this way, you will show the employee that you value them and are willing to dedicate your personal time to listening to their opinions.

As for questions to ask, focus on the following points:

  • attitude towards the company
  • attitude towards the manager (executives)
  • ideas for possible improvement
  • what the company can start doing right now
  • opinion on existing processes

Always prepare a list of questions in advance, and avoid asking overly personal questions, like anything about office gossip. Inform the employee about the purpose of the interview before starting it so that employee understands that you value their thoughts.

Things to do after the interview

After conducting the exit interview, dedicate some time to process the answers and see how you can apply them to optimize your existing and future processes.

Exit interviews tend to unveil the root of the problem and help companies identify the pain points that lead to a low retention rate, employees’ dissatisfaction, and related issues. Analyze the feedback and make sure to use it in order to help the company grow and keep your employees happy with their work.


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Why schools need career guidance and assessments

Today’s world offers an array of possible career options for students, and the choices seem more plentiful than ever. However, it also doubles the responsibility of career counselors and schools, as students have to choose wisely in order to start preparing for their future careers as early as possible.

The initiative of having career assessment services in schools brings numerous benefits to students and should ideally be standardized in every country and educational establishment.

Even though there is still a long way to go, schools and universities can already start introducing minor changes in order to facilitate smart career choices for their students.

The benchmarks of efficient career guidance by Gatsby

The Gatsby Charitable Foundation set in 1967 covers multiple areas of interest, including education. Thus, it is interesting to know that Gatsby came up with eight career guidance benchmarks that are recommended for any organization and establishment that aims to provide career guidance services:

  1. A stable careers program
  2. Learning the latest information from the labor market
  3. Addressing the needs and interests of every student
  4. Linking school program to careers
  5. Meetings with potential employers (and employees)
  6. Real working experience
  7. Meetings with representatives from universities
  8. Personal guidance for the students

As can be seen from these benchmarks, Gatsby formed a clear vision of a solid and efficient career guidance program that can be implemented by any educational establishment. But is it really needed? Let’s have a closer look at the benefits that career guidance brings.

The link between school programs and real-life careers

The biggest problem of almost any school program is the gap between provided material and real life. For example, many former students can confidently tell you they never really needed in-depth knowledge of the plant-cell components in their life. And this is just one example.

While more and more schools have been adjusting their programs, the issue of irrelevance is still a concern. With this in mind, schools that wish to provide valuable career guidance should start linking the programs to real-life careers.

An example would be teaching about writing business correspondence in English classes or learning useful calculations related to accounting in math. The main point here is that the students should understand the importance of the classes and realize that the school material will be useful in their further work.

Assistance in understanding goals and interests

As mentioned above, the large number of possible career options may confuse a student, especially if he or she does not yet know what they’d like to do in life. Thus, career guidance can assist in understanding their interests and goals for the future.

During the meeting with the counselor, a student can learn about their own strengths and weaknesses through assessment tests, discover all the future possibilities, and gradually form a vision of what he or she would like to do.

Career guidance can become a great starting point and help a student understand what kind of subjects and knowledge will be needed in the future. As well, a student will get an evaluation of their personal traits and skillsets to see whether they match a desired career.

Insight into the labor market

The labor market changes at an incredible speed, and students need to be aware of these changes in order to choose relevant occupations. This is one of the benefits that career guidance brings – the insight into the labor market and its requirements.

Career guidance provides students with information on in-demand skills and knowledge that different industries require. The better the students are prepared for the industry demands, the earlier they can start getting ready and planning their future steps (i.e. the choice of extra subjects or activities).

To provide students with real-time information on the industry, schools and universities can invite industry representatives such as employers and employees so students can meet them and ask questions in order to learn first-hand experience and get valuable advice.

Guidance through the possible options

When students think about the future, some may only have vague ideas about their possible options. Career counseling services are aimed at helping students understand all the possible options and choose the most suitable one.

For students, it is important to understand that there can always be a “plan B” and there is more than one option. Career counselors can also remind students about the possibility for internships in order to obtain practical experience in the industry and see whether it fits their interests.

Assistance with career-related activities

While a school program may have accounting and business English classes, it usually does not teach students what to say during an interview, what to include in a resume, how to dress for an interview, and how to watch body language. So career guidance is aimed to close this gap and assist students with real-life career-related activities.

A career counselor should invest time and effort into helping students understand some of the core business processes, assist with writing resumes, and conduct interview simulations. In this way, a student will be prepared in advance and will have much higher chances to succeed during a future interview.

Final word

Career assessment serves both as a source of valuable information for a student (i.e. unveils one’s interests and strengths) and as an assistant that helps prepare for the future work by learning the insights from the industry, meeting the industry representatives and linking the knowledge obtained in school with the labor market demands.

Thus, every educational establishment should consider implementing and standardizing career guidance services. However, it is not enough to just launch a program – counselors themselves should be genuinely interested in helping young people finding their perfect career and in guiding students towards their goals.


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Benefits of a strong HR team: How HR improves internal and external communications

12Every business should have their own HR department to conduct hiring, interviews, discuss bonuses and compensation, and more.

However, since the work of HR isn’t always tangible or visible, many might overlook the importance of having an HR team.

A professional HR team has a big impact on the company’s growth and internal and external communications. Here is how.

Internal communications

Internal communication is all about building and maintaining a healthy work environment and keeping the people engaged and motivated.

The HR department builds and enhances the company’s culture by motivating the employees and transferring information across departments.

HR specialists are responsible for the internal PR strategy, meaning, they work on promoting the company’s brand across employees with an aim to increase loyalty and motivation.

Employee engagement

A motivated employee is a great asset to any company. If a person is motivated, s/he is more likely to exceed the set expectations and deliver high-quality results in a stable and consistent manner. On the other hand, an employee with zero motivation can really hurt your company by not doing the job, compromising the company’s authority, and distracting other employees.

However, you don’t expect the company’s CEO to regularly meet with all employees on a regular basis – there’s just no time for that.

So one of the primary goals of the HR department is to cultivate and maintain motivation among the employees and ensure that every person is in their place. And that requires much time, effort and dedication.

For example, the onboarding process is one of the ways to engage an employee with the company’s processes. Simple as it may seem, onboarding is quite complex and consists of many steps.

Organization’s culture

A company’s culture is the representation of a company’s identity, values, and beliefs. And if the employees share this culture and the company’s vision, they will be more motivated and productive due to a comfortable work environment.

An HR specialist has several roles here:

  • To ensure the candidate fits within the company’s culture
  • To inform the candidate about the company’s culture
  • To help the company maintain the culture by holding corresponding activities and events

In this case, the role of an HR specialist is incredibly important: they not only have to find the right candidate who will later become a dedicated employee, but also maintain the company’s culture in a way that is visible for everyone.

Crisis management

In order to identify and prevent problems, involved parties need to be constantly aware of what’s going on. This is where the HR department helps by informing the employees and management about any issues and aligning communication between the teams.

For example, if an employee loses interest in the job, it could be disastrous for the whole project if no action is taken. However, if the HR specialist identifies that something is wrong and passes the message along to a manager, it can save both the employee from quitting and the project from being delayed. By getting informed early on, a manager can assign different tasks to the employee or even transfer them to another department. 

External communications

While internal communications focus on building and enhancing the company’s image within a company itself, external communications build the company’s image for media, potential candidates, etc. And that’s an area of responsibility of HR as well.

Outreach to potential candidates

By building solid company’s culture and motivating existing employees, the HR department can improve the outreach to potential candidates and initiate contact from their side.

If an existing employee is happy with the company, s/he will most likely share the company with friends and peers. One of them may become interested enough to contact the company and get interviewed for a job.

Overall, if a company has a good reputation with a low turnover rate, it will become a convincing factor for many candidates to search there for a job. This, in turn, will result in more talent coming to the company and contributing to its development.

Brand image and the company’s reputation

This point relates to the one above.

Loyal and motivated employees become brand ambassadors for a company and promote it through word-of-mouth. And it’s HR’s responsibility to cultivate and maintain this loyalty so it can benefit the company.

Furthermore, HR specialists are responsible for organization and participation in various events like hackathons and seminars where the company can contact potential candidates, showcase expertise and increase visibility, thus enhancing an established brand.

Summary

By building solid company culture and investing time and effort into employees’ motivation, the HR department contributes to enhancing the company’s profile and its steady development. 

Happy employees mean a healthy work environment and excellent results, so the work of HR specialists is an integral element of the company’s development and should not be overlooked.


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Nature or Nurture: The Effect of Workplace Culture on Employee Personality Traits

Businesses today understand personality – including soft skills like empathy, attention to detail, and conscientiousness – vastly impact an individual’s performance, productivity, and ability to work well in teams.

Many organizations spend vast sums on assessing those personality traits, organizing them, and utilizing them in recruitment, leadership, and development programs. But, for many, establishing desirable traits is difficult, if not impossible, thanks to the many large variables in how and why people act the way they do.

Soft skills are almost impossible to teach, but they can be encouraged, not just on an individual but on an organization-wide basis. Workplace culture is increasingly seen as one of the most significant factors influencing how people think and behave at work, and for good reason.

Why Workplace Culture?

People do as people do. We don’t quite “follow the herd”, but we certainly imitate the actions and behavior of those who are more successful or likeable than ourselves. This is established through the theory of memetics, established by Darwin. It’s further elicited in theories like conformist bias and prestige bias, which show that humans are more likely to do as others do, and more likely to do as successful, attractive, and well-liked people do.

What does that mean? If you’ve ever been in a grocery store shopping for an item and have the choice of two brands, one of which is almost sold out, one of which is hardly touched, you’ve likely experienced conformist bias in a measurable way. Most of us will go for the more popular option if we’re unfamiliar with one or both options.

And one only has to look at the popularity of using influencers, whether celebrities or Instagrammers, to sell products to understand that prestige bias is very much a thing. While the basis of this lies in the fact that it’s simpler and more efficient to use heuristics to determine that something is likely to be better if it’s either popular or is used by someone who apparently makes good decisions (they’re successful after all), memetics have deep and meaningful implications in the workplace.

  • People are likely to follow the example of leaders, CEO and Leadership buy-in is a must for culture-change initiatives.
  • If everyone is doing something, everyone else will do it too. You can’t “roll-out change” without isolating individuals receiving coaching.
  • Introducing new people into a dominant culture will change the people, not the culture and vice versa.

Microsoft’s Culture Shift

In 2014, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer stepped down and Satya Nadella took his place. This was the first step of one of the most aggressive and effective culture-change missions in a Fortune 500 company. Microsoft (Then a 130,000-person company) was stagnating, no risks were being taken, and in Nadella’s own words, they had become a “Know-it-all” company.

This was, at least in part, because of the leadership style of Steve Ballmer, who punished mistakes and faults harshly and rapidly. No one would take on risk or admit to being wrong (resulting in mistakes and more risk) because they were afraid of loss of stature, privileges, or their job.

Nadella began by taking simple steps to create large, visible changes to how management operated. He famously purchased a copy of “Nonviolent Communication” for every member of senior management. He integrated new rules relating to innovation, required individuals to spend time innovating, and visibly changed performance measures and goals away from perfection. And, in a massive symbolic gesture, recruitment has shifted away from primarily focused on talent, towards soft skills.

Satya Nadella himself spends over a week each year on “Talent Talks” programs, where he sits down to discuss up and coming talent, development opportunities, and potential with the heads of each branch. All of this is part of Nadella’s switch to a “growth mindset” culture, where he hopes that employees will shift to the soft skills needed for innovation, continued growth, and admitting to what they don’t know.

6 years later, that shift is far from complete. Microsoft’s employees claim that culture shifts are incredibly noticeable and growing. People are more open, more able to make mistakes, more able to innovate, and less divided against each other, because people act as teams rather than harshly punished as individuals.

Those shifts have shown marked changes for Microsoft, which had a stock value of $37.82 in March of 2014 when Nadella took office and saw an all-time high stock value of $188.70 on February 10 of 2020. This growth has noticeably been pushed by innovations in cloud services (365, Azure, Intelligent Cloud), many of which would not have been possible without the innovations pushed by Nadella. And, tellingly, Microsoft now employs over 140,000 people.

Setting Up Culture Shift

Creating a culture shift requires a significant investment into training, personal development, or hiring. It requires a massive, organization-wide shift which requires leadership buy-in and a strategy, complete with measurements, transparent goals, and visible gestures for employees.

  • Break employees up into smaller cultures. You don’t want silos, but you do want to be able to influence cultures in a feasible way. Microsoft uses Orgs of about 100-150 people. Spotify uses Tribes.
  • Gain buy-in from leadership, as well as influential people across the organization. An organizational network analysis will help you identify which key people influence their teams and the people around them.
  • Talk to people to truly understand why and how they act. Competency and behavioral management frameworks may be key.
  • Update performance management to encourage the desired skills wanted and needed. Use this to flag high vs poor performers. Eventually, you will have to fire key people to relieve negative pressure on the culture.
  • Consider establishing teams of people with the “right” behaviors. When you onboard new people – hired to reflect desired company culture – you can implement them into spaces that won’t introduce “bad” traits and behaviors.
  • Remain consistent, consider daily measurement and tracking, and implement measures to visually remind employees of desired changes. Microsoft implemented “Growth Mindset” posters across the organization.
  • Ground changes on goals and purpose. Nadella linked this to growth and remaining market viable. Link change to something achievable, measurable, and definable to every employee asked to change.
  • Implement diverse rollouts, with training, team activities, hiring, and other shifts.

Workplace culture will dramatically affect how people think and act. If your organization needs change, tackling that culture is likely the first place to start. Doing so effectively means identifying consistent behaviors across the workplace (this is your culture), looking for root causes, and reacting to that.


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