by Meg Crosby
1. What is our People Strategy?
The most foundational and important people-related question every CEO should ask is “What is our People Strategy?” That is, what is our strategy for mobilizing, energizing, and growing our people? Having (and executing on) a People Strategy is just as important as having and following a Financial Strategy — and is necessary if a company wants to reach its full potential. People have always been the engine that powers the business; but mobilizing, energizing, and growing your people has never been more important than it is in the current knowledge economy, where businesses increasingly rely on the brainpower of their employees more than their physical abilities. As a result, it is critical that every CEO have a well-defined strategy for attracting, deploying, developing, and rewarding talent to accomplish their business objectives.
Reconsider your end-of-year disbursements
by Meg Crosby
With December comes the giving season; and for nonprofits it is typically the most profitable month of the year as donors rush to take advantage of tax deductions. As you sit down to make your year-end giving decisions, I offer a few things to consider.
Invest for Impact
More than likely, you will be asked for a donation this holiday season. It may be by a Salvation Army volunteer ringing a bell over a red kettle outside Kroger, a co-worker urging your participation in a United Way campaign, or a friend hosting a party for you to learn more about a specific cause. If you are like me, you respond to all of these methods because someone you know asks you to give. The vast majority of giving is relationship based. The problem with that is that it often results in a scattershot approach to philanthropy versus a strategic one.
by Meg Crosby
There is a new book on my reading list. The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore is a fictional account of the historical rivalry between Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb, and George Westinghouse, who improved upon it and ultimately wired the country. So, the question is, which of the two was the innovator? Both! Innovations come in all shapes and sizes — from the groundbreaking invention to the iterative improvement, and from the major disruptor to the better, faster, cheaper. It’s all innovation.
by Meg Crosby
According to Deloitte Consulting, Millenials will be 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Yes, read that sentence again. Their presence as a majority is not the only change we will see in the workplace in the coming 10 years. Here are four other trends we are keeping an eye on.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the renowned Stanford University School of Design, or “D-School” for short. This think tank is re-thinking how we interact with our surroundings and looking at spatial innovations in corporate settings, classroom settings, and even in our homes. One common theme cuts across all categories — flexibility. Everything at the D-School is modular and on wheels for easy movement. Each work space comes with a set of furniture that can be configured in multiple ways to best suit the user’s need — whether that may be an individual work space, a conference setting, classroom, etc. Of course, all spaces are tricked out with the latest technologies and mobile devices, too. All of you recovering cubicle dwellers from the “open floor plan” era will appreciate the workplace of the future that you can configure on demand.
Let’s face it, everyone hates annual performance reviews. They are time consuming, anxiety producing, and rarely lead to any meaningful change. To quote an article from Strategy + Business magazine, “Conventional Performance Management has been linked to high levels of attrition, low productivity, and significant problems with collaboration.” Increasingly, the trend is for companies to scrap their annual review process in favor of something more strategic and impactful. The biggest shift you will see in performance management is away from “evaluating past performance” to more frequent and forward-looking processes and behaviors that “drive future performance.” Companies will start asking themselves, “What drives performance in our organization and how do we create a culture that values those things and unleashes that potential?” The secret sauce for success lies in those answers.
Elevation of HR
It turns out that people are a particularly important asset for companies in a knowledge economy. It follows, then, that elevating the people function (HR) to a seat at the highest strategic level would be an important move for companies hoping to stay ahead of the curve on attracting, motivating, and retaining talent. If you have not heard the acronym CHRO, you will. Harvard Business Review’s July 2015 issue featured the provocative title: “It’s Time to Blow Up HR and Build Something New.” Inside this issue, in their article “People Before Strategy,” the authors contend, “It’s time for HR to make the same leap the finance function has made in recent decades and become a true partner to the CEO. Maintaining human capital must be accorded the same priority that managing financial capital came to have in the 1980s.” FastCompany’s recent article “What Will Work Look Like in 2030” calls for a “Chief of Work” position at the C-Suite level to “set the culture” and “drive the work agenda.” Whichever moniker you prefer, the elevation of the people function to a strategic and executive level will be a significant shift in the coming years.
Not all future trends are positive. If you’re like me, you are probably experiencing this one in your own home — perhaps during that precious “family time” when everyone is sitting in the same room but looking at their respective devices. In 2015, Susan Sobel-Lojeski introduced the concept of “virtual distance” to describe the psychological distance created by an overreliance on technology in communicating. As our reliance on technology increases, our ability to form authentic trust-based relationships decreases. This explains the “connectivity paradox” we are all experiencing, which is that the more connected we are, the more isolated we feel. Virtual distance is a real threat to the workplace because relationships are the lifeblood of any business and foster critical skills like innovation, collaboration, and teamwork. The antidote for this negative trend is more face-to-face communication. People are starved for it. Remember this next time you email the guy in the cubicle next to you.
Meg Crosby is a principal with PeopleCap Advisors.
by Meg Crosby
Millennials are a hot commodity as cities across the country, including Memphis, compete to attract lifeblood in the form of bright young talent. Local business leaders frequently ask me what they can do to entice young employees. My response: Loosen up on your paid time off policy.
Here’s the deal. According to Maude Standish of Tarot, a Millennial trend insight company, the ultimate luxury for this generation is having a unique experience. Travel, technology, and the sharing economy have removed barriers to access the farthest reaches of the globe. If they can dream it, they can do it. No longer will piling in the station wagon and driving to the nearest Gulf Coast beach suffice for these intellectually curious, connected, and socially conscious young adults. They are much more interested in hiking Machu Picchu, taking an eco-tour of the Amazon rain forest via zip line, or building water wells in sub-Saharan Africa.
It is very difficult for some of us GenXers and Boomers to see beyond the traditional two-week vacation policy that has existed since the beginning of time. But see beyond it, we must. For companies who are squarely in the knowledge economy — meaning that their employees’ brains are their greatest assets — winning the war on talent is a huge competitive advantage. It might sound strange, but re-thinking your PTO policy might lead to dramatic improvements in employee productivity, innovation, and retention.
First, our brains are overloaded and need a break. Never before in history have humans processed so much information on a daily basis. According to Tom Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, “People are working so many hours that not only in most cases do they not have more hours they could work, but there’s also strong evidence to suggest that when they work for too long they get diminishing returns.”
Scientific American reports, “Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to achieve our highest levels of performance.”
And I don’t know about you, but I see a spike in my productivity in preparation for leaving for vacation — finishing projects, clearing off my desk, tying up loose ends, and completing tasks before I leave.
Time out from the daily grind is also important for reflection and insight. It is no coincidence that January and August are the months our company sees the highest number of inbound calls for consulting services. Our clients that take vacation over the summer or over the holidays have the time away from the day-to-day issues in the business to step back and reflect on the business as a whole and come back refreshed and ready to engage on meaty strategic issues. Tim Krieder writes in The New York Times, “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections.” These unexpected connections lead to learning and innovation.
And finally, and perhaps most compelling, employees know it when they have a good thing. The Times reported on a study by Ernst & Young of its employees. They found that employees who took more vacation had higher performance rankings and were more likely to stay with the firm longer.
If you are still not convinced, consider this: Millennials lead what researchers call a “blended life.” Or, stated another way, these digital natives sleep with their phones. Where the GenXers once pleaded for work/life balance, the Millennials are content to blur the lines between work and life 24/7. This means that even while hiking Machu Picchu, your Millennial employee will take time out to answer your important work question and post a selfie. Everybody wins!
Meg Crosby is a principal with PeopleCap Advisors.
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