Smarter after Covid


Finding better ways forward

Before Covid most companies with international interests had several people flying and traveling to other offices and locations to attend meetings, lead initiatives, or train others. While most of us have pretty much remained “grounded” in our countries without the option to travel, company activities continued (as far as it was possible). Something seems more obvious now than perhaps in 2019: We are getting pretty good at training, meeting and mentoring remotely using technology and internet connections. Yet, when we can, will we continue previous practices of sending our leaders and experts to remote locations on a regular basis like we did before? It is said that Ireland lowered carbon emissions by at least 6% during 2020 and some companies have seen business travel costs more than halved over 2020!

Some challenges that companies try to address by flying in leaders and experts from HQ:

  • We do not have people in all locations with the right experience and skills and HQ experts are needed to support local teams on a regular basis.
  • We are not exactly sure what the true status of projects are and we would feel more comfortable having one of our trusted staff regularly visit remote locations.
  • We are not sure that local people understand our strategies and truly commit to realizing performance targets, which means someone needs to visit with them on a regular basis to ensure they do understand our strategies and then review with them how their efforts support these.
  • We are finding it tough to source local people with the right skills and experiences and those we can find are too expensive in terms of compensation expectations.
  • The local people speak a different language and their English language skills are not great, which makes it hard to know for sure what they are trying to convey during our calls. We need to see the project/work to understand more clearly what is really happening there.
  • The local people may not be forthcoming with bad news relating to projects in remote locations and they may possibly favor being cordial over risking our dismay.

The list is not exhaustive, but it does highlight some of the opportunities to find better ways going forward to avoid going back to the level of business travel we previously considered normal.

The term Glocal means to Think Global and Act Local and it is said that Akio Morita of Sony Corporation was the first person to use the term which became popular in the business world in the 1990s. How to think about the big picture and over-arching strategies goals and still be sensitive to local conditions and needs when you implement those big picture ideas? A balance would have to be created and it would be an ever-adjusting type of balance which is not fixed in place. To incorporate (for example) shifts in local legislation or new diversification strategies from HQ. Finding a way to keep this balance in place may lower the need to return to pre-covid business travel levels.

There are at least three ways to address this:
  1. Focus leadership development in a few key areas,
  2. Better teams – adjusting selection and development of staff, and
  3. Better use of technology – making more use of technologies to facilitate remote collaboration.

Better leadership

Having the judgment, problem-solving and decision-making skills to navigate in the space where one has to constantly balance global strategies and goals with local situations and conditions means leaders have to be comfortable with ambiguity, be constantly on the look-out and actively engaged in learning new skills and understanding how others have succeeded or failed in addressing what lies before the leader. Learning how to proactively include all team members including those who are “different” and to do this successfully leaders at HQ and remote locations need to understand their own biases and stereotyping. This will ensure that the skills of the entire team is leveraged in achieving performance goals. Lastly, leaders also need to have the ability to easily shift their perspective from global thinking to local acting and back in order to maintain the balance needed for the decision they need to make at that moment.

Better teams

Working on a diverse team with some team members in remote locations is something we have learned to do successfully over the last year. And this new skill has brought opportunities to get better results through teamwork without having to be present in an office or with the entire team. Will we ask – does this person have to be in the office every day of the week? Or will we consider hiring talent where we find it without feeling he or she needs to be relocated to HQ in order to be an effective member of our team?

To help existing teams be more inclusive and effective some specific or additional training may be needed around diversity. This training can include developing an improved understanding of cultural differences and perspective differences (for example among provinces or states in a country). It often comes down to increasing awareness of own biases and stereotypes that may have settled in our perspectives about groups of people who are very different from our own backgrounds.

Recruiters and hiring managers also have to start including additional skills in requisitions to fill vacancies. Skills like additional language skills – not only English – experience such as having lived and/or worked in a country other than their home countries.

When creating teams to work on performance improvement projects (action teams) – why not include people from different functions, locations and cultures on the team? It is a great way to increase your internal network of employees collaborating and communicating across locations.

All of these aspects can help a team become more global-minded and inclusive while making smarter choices working on local projects which impact broader strategies or targets in the company.

Use technology

In addition to tools for video-conferencing, there are tools which can help monitor progress or quality without having to travel to a location.

1. Hololens2: click this link to see short video of what it can do across various industries – there are ways for clients and HQ personnel to connect with someone using this technology at a remote location.

2. Realwear: click this link to see a short video of how it can be used to get input and advice from a person located remotely.

3. Some locations use drones to get an understanding of general progress on large construction projects and provide overall updates to managers at HQ. Drones can also be used to inspect hard-to-reach places safely.

4. Use a centralized electronic storage solution for files meaning all local files can easily be viewed from remote locations without needing to travel to a site.


While working smarter in these ways is also a way to lower pre-covid GHG and carbon emissions, many employees appreciate the flexibility of remote working options and combined with lower business travel needs it adds to having a better work-life balance. The amount of quality time spent with families and friends has also increased for most. All of which adds greatly to employee well-being. Looking for ways to leverage what we have learned by having to work remotely during 2020 can benefit companies and employees in greater ways than we may be able to realize now.

From Strategy to Performance Goals


Employees and Company Boards want the same thing – they want clarity around what you expect from employees, want feedback on how it is going from an outcomes perspective and want to know the steps you will take to fix it, in case outcomes are less than expected.

Most companies use a Balanced Scorecard approach whereby specific performance metrics in key performance or result areas from company strategies are used to set and monitor performance expectations into the company from the most senior roles to the most junior roles.

The benefits of this approach are numerous… for one you can get a good understanding of how well things are going with implementing your strategies in the company, you can make sure that all the initiatives being worked on relate to the strategy, identify organizational units or individual where things are going well or not so well – which mean you can provide support in the form of training for example. A balanced scorecard also helps to ensure you have organizational alignment where it is clear to every employee how he/she impacts the overall results of the company. And when an employee sees his or her own goals, it is easy for him/her to understand what exactly the company strategy and desired outcomes are about in a practical way.

Strategic Performance Areas

Having a cheat-sheet to get started may be useful…Performance Indicators can be set in many different areas. This list shows a few examples which may be handy as you read your own strategy and select the top performance areas that need to be impacted in your upcoming performance period.

In most cases 5 key performance areas would be chosen to balance current operations, growth goals, keeping current stakeholders satisfied and continuing to improve and innovate. e.g: 1) Financial outcome(s), 2) Quality outcome(s), 3) Customer satisfaction outcome(s), 4) Improving upon performance and efficiencies of previous years, and 5) Employee (leaders/specialists?) development and or retention outcomes.

Example

Let’s look at some specific KPIs and how they may translate into performance expectations into the organization. From high organizational levels deeper into the organization the goals become more specific to an individuals’ tasks and activities. In contrast, the goals of managers are typically focused on their ability to influence and lead the outcomes of teams or groups reporting into him or her. Managers ensure that things happen while in most cases the deeper you go into the organization, the more you see performance goals are based on the individual’s efforts to achieve an outcome.

Performance goals typically come in various types of outcomes based on how your KPI would require the right response to meet the company strategy.

Setting Expectations

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Cascading goals

Starting with the company’s strategy (at the highest level) the CEO or executive team can easily identify the top 4 to 7 Performance Areas where focus is needed to drive outcomes needed in the coming year. From there the heads of functions or organizational units can identify what that means for each of their organizations. Then performance goals for each organizational unit manager can be determined . And the same process cascades down until performance goals have been set for everyone at the company. All of the goals finally relate to a big-picture framework of KPIs at the top level of the organization.

Most performance expectations are set as SMART goals and each employee would typically end up with between 3 and 7 (max) performance goals for the year.

The graphic below shows how at individual level the goal may be a specific part of the overall KPI but when it is all “rolled-up” organizationally the full organizational KPI can be achieved in full by all employees contributing to the desired outcome. Not every organization group or unit might support every high-level KPI. Think for example of an organizational unit responsible for the upkeep of facilities, there may not be direct goals that relate to revenue growth for that group.

Note Goal E: It does not relegate to a KPI at the broader organizational level. This happens often – for example that a functional organization has a specific focus which may not directly relate to the KPIs that were set on a company-wide basis. That could be something like finalize implementation of a digital tool which enables better efficiency the following year. If there are no high-level KPIs related to improving on existing performance/efficiency, Goal E would not have a direct link to the overall high-level KPIs set. For this reason, it is important to set the high-level KPIs in a broad and balanced way to ensure that most goals that would be important at a level deeper into the organization to maintain or improve a specific level of efficiency or service delivery can be matched with the high-level need for renewal or continuous improvement. Some companies do not think broader than revenue or growth goals.

Interim feedback

It is important for managers to monitor outcomes along the way – do not wait until the end of the year to discover that outcomes were not trending in the right direction. Spotting issues or delays early means you can rectify or influence rectification of the situation. Give employees feedback throughout the year – make them aware of outcomes that deviate from desired outcomes, train and coach them to improve outcomes that they are responsible for and give them on-the-job coaching and support when they are inexperienced in specific areas. Every outcome matters and contributes to the overall outcome.

Learning

Evaluating outcomes and discussing those with employees is the next step. This step also includes looking at relative performance outcomes among various organizational units and overall outcomes. This can lead to an improved understanding of where further improvements may be needed. Improvements can range from awareness training, making more information available, helping to upskill or cross-skill employees in various areas. It may also lead to understand misalignment with what suppliers can or are delivering or misalignment between customer expectations and what operations is able to deliver right now.

Use what you learn from discussing performance outcomes to influence future performance outcomes and support that might be needed for the next year.

In the final outcome of the performance period you will have individual scores that relate to individual performance. When you look one level higher you see the contributions of various employees in the same organizational unit and how each of them did on their own performance goals. If the goals were created to be an exact match – between goals set for the manager and those set for those reporting to the manager – the aggregate outcome of the team would determine the manager’s score.

Looking at the organization, it is easy to pinpoint where contributions by individuals, teams, managers may not have reached expected results in the outcomes.
Understanding why this occurred would help learning from the past and improving going forward. Answering questions like:
  • Knowing what we know now, were these realistic expectations or do we need to first solve some key issues before we can make more progress in this area?
  • Do people need more training to make sure they are able to perform in new areas or with new outcomes (such as new markets or types of customers)?
  • Is this area so specialized that we need to hire some people with the specialized knowledge or experience that this team needs?

Most companies are on a learning path when it comes to their own performance management process and approach. If you are just starting, do expect it to be a journey and make sure you allow space for reviewing, reflecting and learning as you go. It may lead you to make adjustments to your strategy or the way the organization is structured, to name but a few ways that on-going organizational learning can benefit the greater organization.

Ultimately the goal of your performance management approach is to measure how much the efforts of those in the organization are helping you achieve your goals as a company, where are hidden barriers to succeeding with your organizational strategies and where are opportunities to accelerate results if you leverage great ideas and tools developed in any part of the organization. This makes your company sustainable into the future. Viable today and into the future by continuously evolving, learning and innovating without losing focus of the basic outcomes needed to drive profitability on an on-going basis.

Researching New Office Locations – checklist


What if a valued customer wants you to do a project or support them from a new location where you do not currently have an office? Yes, research will be needed! But there are so many things that may be important, where would you start? This resource I am sharing is a handy starter-list for the research that HR is often expected to do.

The topics covered in the attached checklist include the following areas:

And in each case, the checklist contains the aspect to the left and leaves you some space to jot down notes pertaining to your company and your plans. (See example below) That way you can quickly create your next-step plans following your research.

Some points to ponder:

  • Trying to answer the question about how much to pay employees you plan to relocate to the new office – calculate their entire package before you start. Add in all benefits they are getting which may not be cash in their hands i.e. health insurance, pension contributions by the company etc. Considering the full package is the starting point, not the annual salary only.
  • Look for local tax breaks that may be available to those you plan to relocate. In some countries they may be able to pay lower personal taxes.
  • If the local language is neither English nor the language spoken at the office your planned expats work now – how can you help them learn the new language? Even if all business is conducted in one language, the planned expats would need to set up their lives locally including trips to the supermarket, making local friends, and finding local information online. Being able to understand some basic words or say some basic phrases in the local language could be very valuable as they get settled there.
  • How can you minimize the carbon footprint of that new location? Limiting flights in and out of that new office and only placing expats there when the work cannot be done remotely or using modern tools and platforms to accomplish business objectives and outcomes.

The shared resource above is a starter-list and may not include all the aspects you need to look at before mobilizing. It is a great tool for doing a high-level review of a location under consideration for a new office or site.

While you can find a lot of the information you need online, I strongly recommend engaging with recognized experts in establishing operations abroad. Laws change, new trends emerge which have not yet made it into laws and websites are not always updated in a timeous fashion. So do your own research (using the checklist above) to understand the “lay of the land”. If you want to go further, engage with experts who may be able to advise on additional aspects and possible solutions which you may have missed in your own first-pass research efforts.

Assess Employee Retention Risks


20200524 risk ass

It has been said that your most valuable asset walks out of the doors every single day and you can but hope they come back the next day – your employees!

Keeping employees from leaving a company could be as simple as engaging with them, including them, helping them develop new skills and listening to their ideas. While that sounds deceptively simple, not every leader finds it easy to act when they hear that advice.

Get the facts

Before taking action it is almost always a good idea to get the facts first. Do we have an issue? If so, where are we most at risk? In the case of employees the questions may be – who may be most at risk of leaving the company and what can I (as manager/supervisor/coach) do to avoid that?

The self audit list below may be a good place to start assessing how much anyone on your team may be tempted to leave your team or the company.

Self Audit template

Completing the checklist requires you to answer yes or no to a series of statements as they would apply to each employee on your team. Once you have completed the assessment, add up the numbers of “no” answers you have for each employee and use the Score guide at the top of the page to determine whether each employee would be in the low, medium or high risk from an employee retention perspective.

The next risk to assess, is the impact it would have on your project or team if that particular employee decided to leave. Look at each employee (each column) and consider the unique skills and talents that he or she brings to the project and rate the impact that his/her (unplanned) voluntary departure could have – low, medium or high.

Map it

Where to start? Map the answers from the self audit sheet onto the graphic below. The risk that each employee could decide to leave on the horizontal access and the impact on the project, in case that employee did leave, on the vertical axis.

Then write down the names of employees that would be in the “green zone” vs the “yellow zone” vs the “orange zone”.

The orange area requires immediate and high focus, the yellow zone does require focus, but less so. The green zone requires maintenance. Do not assume that because a retention risk is low today it would stay that way for years. Many talented employees get calls and offers from other companies and recruiters all the time! This means you should never stop reminding them why you are happy that they are on your team! And don’t only tell them, show them! Celebrate milestones and successes, recognize them in meaningful ways and show them how working with your team or company is the right long-term strategy for them. Make sure you offer them advantages towards their overall life goals, their career goals, their work-life balance goals etc.

Take action

Once you know where to focus, use the last worksheet as a checklist for areas where you can lower the risk that someone may consider leaving the team.

Use one checklist per employee and make sure that you have conversations with each employee about the areas where you either did not know the answers (looking at the self-audit worksheet) or you have not said anything to an employee about a particular area.

When it doesn’t work

Sometimes employees will leave for reasons you could neither foresee nor control and though it may negatively impact your team or project, you would need to hire someone else or promote someone else into the role that had become vacant. Make sure you are always developing several employees on your team to take on more tasks and responsibilities. A good pipeline of developing leaders is your best strategy for growth and also for voluntary employee turnover. Parting on good terms when valuable employees leave always leaves the door open for their potential return in the future.

Using this focused approach to assess your employee retention risk exposure does not guarantee that valued employees will not leave. it is simply a prudent way to keep an eye on your biggest assets, employees, and it supports the process of taking timely actions to lower those risks.

Change Management – Getting senior management onboard


change-mgt-overview-blog-pic

Before any organizational change is launched there has to be meetings with executives and senior leaders to ensure alignment around the reason(s) and main principles of the change initiative. Meeting objectives would also typically include getting their support for executing change activities and to help them understand expectations of them as executives and senior leaders during the change period and beyond.

The downloadable slide deck (above) can be used as a basis for creating your messages to senior leaders and executives. The slides helps to explain how change will likely impact the organization and the people plus explaining how leaders can help by being role models and also by actively addressing resistance and other signs of low engagement in those around them.

Use this resource as optional examples to help communicate the specific messages that makes sense for the change management initiative that you may be leading and the meeting participants/audience that you will be facing.

Here are the steps I would suggest you follow:

  1. Be clear on the reasons that your change initiative need to be implemented and how the changes will improve on status quo. (Business case or burning platform)
  2. Did you get executive buy-in from one or more sponsors before your presentation? (Highly recommended – in fact, do not proceed until you have it!)
  3. Consider the presentation you will be doing – who will be there? What do they know and what do you need them to know, understand and do once they leave the presentation?
  4. What impact will the planned changes likely have on the employees at your company and how do you think your targeted audience can help and should act/behave given the change process and desired outcomes?
  5. Review the slides in the resource I am sharing and determine if any of them could help you and support the messages that you would like to communicate to the audience that you will be facing.

Of course these slides are not going to substitute the preparation work you need to do before starting a change initiative, but they may be helpful to use as background or to explain some of the specific change management aspects that may be of particular importance to your audience.

Organizational Strategy Framework


framework final

Setting a strategy for an organization requires a focus on aspects internally and external to your organization. Once you have set your strategic growth targets you would need to look at how you need things to change internally to support those growth targets. You may want to set your signs on improving profitability, increasing organizational effectiveness or moving leadership behaviors closer to your values and vision for the organization.

The resource I am sharing can help you align some of the most important internal aspects with your strategy to improve your chances of successfully executing on the strategy.

Most organizations are able to successfully navigate through the process of setting a strategy. Many organizational leaders find execution and implementation of the strategy the hardest part to achieve. I believe this is mostly because internal aspects that are needed to support the strategy are not always taken into account in the execution plan.

The framework (See download option above) and questions to address in each case help you by acting as a checklist. Reviewing the execution plan, this list will help you consider how to engage, involve, and inform stakeholders in the process. It helps ensure that every aspect of your execution plan reinforces your strategic objectives leading to a better implementation plan.

The areas to ensure alignment are:

  1. Company values and culture
  2. Leadership (behavior and mindset)
  3. Workforce capability
  4. Organization structure
  5. Organization processes
  6. Systems (Automation)
  7. Performance Management and Metrics

The sequence would always be to first select a strategy you would like to pursue with the organization and then use this resource to plan the implementation portion of the activity.

Setting strategies is often an iterative process as changes from inside or outside of companies require an adjustment in approach. Remember to check the impact of further changes on the same checklist (see above) to ensure you maintain the strategy alignment.

HR Function checkup – Feedback from internal customers


In the same way that companies would approach external customers to gather their views on what is going well and what needs improvement (customer satisfaction), the HR function should reach out to its internal customers to find out how satisfied they are with the services and support that they receive. It is true that there are more than one model for HR service delivery, but that does not change the fact that it is wise to gather feedback on the services and support that you do provide given the structure and focus for HR in your company.

The HR function is often guilty of focusing its developmental and improvement efforts exclusively on helping other departments and neglects using those same skills and expertise to improve the HR function as a whole and developing the people who deliver the HR services to others.

HR Function – Feedback Survey

This survey can help you gather the information you need from your internal customers to help you identify specific areas of excellence in HR and also those areas where improvement may be needed. When improvement is needed it will often imply additional training and development of some HR representatives (HRBPs or Generalists) and may also  include communicating the HR vision and goals more clearly within the HR function. Remember to recognize and reward those who were part of delivering excellent services when you review the survey results.

Tips:

  • Add comment fields next to scores if you want to be certain to capture specific comments about the scores.
  • Do be sure to provide survey participants with feedback on the outcome of the survey and the actions that you plan to take as a result of the survey. This motivates participants to continue providing you with valuable feedback in the future.
  • Create an action plan and communicate that clearly within the HR function so that everyone understands which areas you plan to address and how you plan to do that. It may help to set specific metrics around your planned improvements to make it easier to report progress.
  • Regularly update stakeholders – internal to the HR function and those who are internal customers in your company – on the progress of improvement efforts as you implement the post-survey action plan.
  • Remember to celebrate successes (milestones and outcomes achieved) and be prepared to add additional actions to your plan in cases where your improvement efforts are not reaping the results you had planned for.

Having a standard survey which you use ever year gives the opportunity to track the progress in specific questions over time and helps with trend analysis and showing % improvements over time.

Succession Plan Template


succession

Ambitious leaders are always looking for ways to develop talented direct reports who could possibly take over the baton when the leader gets promoted. Planning ahead to make sure that tomorrow’s leaders are developed today is called Succession planning. People retire, people leave their role and, new roles are created during reorganizations and restructuring efforts. All of these scenarios may create the need for someone else to take over in a leadership role and the question becomes… do you have anyone available internally who is promotion-ready?

This is the reason why it is important to keep a track of the key roles you have in your organization and also keep an eye on those who could potentially fill the role should it unexpectedly become vacant.

Continue reading “Succession Plan Template”

Communication Plan


writing plan

Whenever you plan to make changes to a system, a process, a strategy or generally change the environment that people work in you will need to communicate. Specific messages need to be scripted and planned to help communicate the change that is coming, why things are changing and how things are progressing with the change initiatives.

Stakeholders in the change process could have different information needs and messages will need to take that into consideration. Identifying stakeholder groups starts by making a list of the groups of people who would be affected by the change. Think about functions, think about geographic locations, think about management levels, think about people outside your company who may be affected, think about vendors or partner companies.

Communication messages could be intended to explain why things have to change, what is going to change, when and how it is going to change, how the change is going (progress update) and what (if anything) people need to start doing, stop doing or what should change in the way they have acted in the past.

Continue reading “Communication Plan”