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Neil McCormick returns this week to the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board from Australia. Neil has worked in human resources and consulting services for the past 16 years building a repertoire covering human resource management, recruitment consulting, management consulting, talent management, general management and learning and development. He currently serves as General Manager for Talent2, Asia-Pac’s largest HR consultancy. Full Bio
This is Part Two of my series of articles on Workforce Strategy. Part one was Workforce Strategy 101
As a CEO and senior business leader, I always found it frustrating that measurement and reporting of the people aspects of business never practically tied to the real goal of the organisations I managed. I always felt that the Human Resources functions needed a consistent way to be measured that were both defensible and repeatable, as well as a set of standards to be measured against. I’m pleased to say that over the past 3 years, and in conjunction with Bond University and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) here in Australia, we’ve created just that.
Our Human Resource Performance Audit gives us repeatability and rigour of measurement. And the work we’ve done on Human Resource Advisory Standards gives us a benchmark to measure against.
You can find further detail on the Audit process and the Advisory Standards project (Higher Education example) at the following links:
I mention these points now to highlight that my writing on Workforce Strategy includes ongoing reference about the need for rigour and evidence based decision making; the assessment of criticality, and the importance of clearly linking all Human Resources activities to the organisational objective. The terminology I use is intentionally different from everyday HR “speak”.
Workforce Strategy, HR Audit and our Advisory Standards borrow terminology and structure from Audit. We use the terms Inputs, Processes, Outputs and Outcome. Outcome equates to the delivery of the targeted objective. We use the “three E’s” of economy, efficiency and effectiveness as our points of measurement.
Our core purpose for creating Workforce Strategy is to ensure clients understand how to continuously interpret the human capital needed to deliver organisational goals. It is essential that the Human Capital is in the right place at the right time with the right capability and engagement levels– all in the most economic, efficient and effective way.
Through the implementation of Workforce Strategy organisations will be far more agile, adaptable and flexible.
In day-to-day business, the majority of what we see described as workforce planning or strategic workforce activity is, in reality, crisis management.
Human Resource services are typically under constant pressure to resolve the immediate need. So they are focused on the current crisis, or perhaps the next milestone, but rarely have the resources, methodologies and strategies to get above the “noise”.
I’m not suggesting that tactics to solve current needs be replaced or stopped. I am saying that there’s a far better way to inform and support these tactical decisions and to develop strategies and capabilities to both reach long term goals and to adjust as things change.
Initially, we need to run a parallel strategy until the loop from workforce strategy to tactical delivery is closed; and we create a continuous and seamless flow of informed direction.
The focus of Workforce Strategy is not just on the short or medium term. It looks at today through the lens of future objectives and informs decision making today with that view.
We want to be ahead of the game to the point that we are no longer in crisis mode, but following a flow of business requirements well in advance of the next potential crisis. In other words, managing the avoidance of crisis!
Where to begin?
Easy. Head for the Business Plan! Just don’t believe everything you read there.
We need to have a detailed understanding of what the organisation wants to achieve by a nominated point in time. We also need an outline of what leadership considers the organisation should look like. If this information is not readily available, there are many facilitated consulting exercises that will assist organisations to document and detail appropriate business plans.
It’s important when we undertake this exercise to ensure we are thinking in terms of the “future state” organisational objective and what is required to deliver that objective as the priority. We must assume we were building a new organisation at a point in time in the future; a “Zero base future state”.
Of course, the current and forecast business will impact decisions about future positions. However in this initial step, we should concentrate on the most efficient, effective and economic delivery of those future organisational goals. Then we determine the most appropriate mechanism to deliver those goals.
So, the starting point is sometime in the future. The majority of organisations do have a 3 year to 5 year plan. Some organisations work on much longer cycles 10 – 20 years while others consider 18 months a long time. We take that nominated point in time and analyse the plan and facilitate the discussion:
- What is the core goal of the organisation at that future point?
- What are the key objectives?
- What will the organisation look like (structure, service lines etc.) at that point? o Zero base future state
- Where is the evidence that this goal and these core objectives can be achieved?
It’s important to understand if these goals and objectives have been assessed and evidenced for the probability of successful delivery. Too often aspirational goals sound so good they quickly morph into targeted objectives. I’m not suggesting that aspirational goals shouldn’t be used as the foundation for objectives. I am saying that aspirational goals should be recognised and treated as such. We need to be vigilant in managing expectation of delivery and recognise the impact non-achievement can have on our people even when, in some instances, the actual level of achievement is exceptional.
At the end of this step we should have a detailed understanding of the organisational objectives and the shape of the organisation at the nominated point in time. This exercise may be easily done with a quality business plan and a closed door but the program will be far more effective if the leadership are taken on the journey. Very shortly we will be challenging some of the precept and concepts, from a human capital requirements viewpoint, of this future state.
We begin this exercise in the full knowledge that this initial position will surely need to change several times through the time period. Business requirements change. However, it is much easier to make a step change than it is to re-invent a new position each time.
Not every function is critical, not every capability is critical.
Experience indicates that there is a significant lack of understanding of what the term criticality means, or, in some instances if there is a need to assess criticality in the first place. I do not agree with the position that all capability/people requirements are equal. There is no one size fits all in Talent management.
To some managers any vacancy is critical. To others criticality is determined by the organisation chart where only management positions were considered critical etc.
Functional Criticality is different to Capability Criticality. Criticality is a moving feast with the potential for constant change with the ebb and flow of business demand and resource supply.
In the next article we’ll deal with Criticality and how to focus on those things that deliver organisational outcome.
 A lack of linkage to Organisational Objective is one of the major reasons for the failure of many HR Initiatives.
I’m wading through a nostalgic period. Many of my friends are going through really big transitions. When I hit one of these stages, I dig back through music to find remnants of memories and frameworks for reflection.
It’s been an odd time, this round. Listening to James Taylor on Sesame Street, Jason Mraz, Ingrid Michaelson, Cat Power and Buddy Guy, Cat Power and the Dead (among others) gets me to thinking about the HR profession’s obsession with ‘the best’. Take a look at any of the video links in the first sentence of this paragraph. These are not videos of pure talent manifesting itself. They are pictures of the way that imperfection assembles into amazing work.
Astonishing work is rarely a question of the best. It’s never a question of the greatest talent. It’s always a matter of the greatest desire.
Desire trumps talent.
And, I don’t mean some non-specific form of ‘passion’; some nebulous need to be engaged. The desire to succeed, to make the most of the circumstances, to see the opportunity in the fog, to create value where none existed. This desire is the primary quality that holds well functioning groups together.
It can’t be measured very well; you have to know how to spot it.
“I try and try to forget you girl,
But it’s just so hard to do,
Every time you do that thing you do “
- the Oneders
When employers speak of finding passionate employees, they’re usually looking for people who will work for a discount. If you really love your work, you’ll do it for love and not money, or so the thinking goes. If you don’t think this is true, ask anyone who is on the passion bandwagon whether or not they pay extra for passion. They don’t. Ever.
Yesterday, we took a look at the difference between talent and desire. The crazy level of emphasis on talent is distorting sound business practice. There’s something big missing from the conversation. The desire to succeed always produces superior work where talent is simply a question of potential.
Passion and desire may be better left for the bedroom. Neither word really captures the essence of the special something that separates people who are driven to success from those who just want a job. This is the primary failing of quantitative matching systems and most assessment tools. Driven people want more money, not less. They crave accomplishment and can see their dreams.
Drive is hard to measure but easy to see. It’s that je ne sais quoi. It’s the juice. It’s That Thing You Do that makes you distinct from all of the others.
The music business, where talent is manufactured and sold every day, is a great place to look for insight into the relative value of talent, drive and luck. It’s the combination of the three that really makes a team, and it’s only with a team that organizations can take on really big things.
The opening reference is to Tom Hanks’ movie, That Thing You Do. (Hanks was both writer and director.) It’s the story of the rise and fall of a quartet who share some striking similarities with the Beatles. They gel with the last minute addition of a new drummer and flower under the guidance of their manager (played by Hanks).
All of the band members are pretty good guys who are willing to work hard and put up with some crap in pursuit of their dream. The movie chronicles the quirky little miracles that roll up into success. The tapestry of the story is a bunch of little details that flow together.
The story progresses around the perfection of the song, That Thing You Do. Here, they are trying it up tempo for the first time. Here’s the finished road version of That Thing You Do. There’s an enormous amount of work and attention to detail between the two versions.
As success crescendos, of the drive of its members. Some end up as carpenters while others become seasoned musicians. The difference has less to do with talent than timing and drive.
As performance management dominates our landscape, it’s worth wondering if an equitable share of the boss’ goals leaves room for “That Thing You Do”. Do we eliminate creativity by slicing and dicing objectives? Or do we hunt for ways to celebrate “That Thing You Do”?
Bonus link: Here’s the Nsynch cover.
An Example of That Thing You Do
Yesterday’s piece talked about how useful the music business is for understanding talent, drive and luck and how the three interplay. The following letter appeared in Bob Lefsetz’ blog (I’ve asked for permission to reprint his stuff occasionally). It chronicles the early success of a band committed to making it.
As you read the letter, understand that you are seeing an example of that elusive thing that isn’t desire or passion. It’s the will to succeed, the capacity to convert hardship into opportunity, the willingness to fully utilize the resources you have in pursuit of a dream.
Ask yourself how your operation helps people find this thing in the people they hire and cultivate.
Hello Mr. Lefsetz
I am a longtime reader of your column, first time writer. I wanted to say thanks for talking about us last week. Besides getting a whole bunch of new people to take notice of Hollerado, it really meant a lot to me personally to have you talk about what we are doing.
We are a DIY band through and through. I would love for you to get to know our band a little more.
- We come from a small town in Ontario called Manotick -We have been touring relentlessly for 4 year
- For our first american tour, no-one wanted to book us. So, instead of booking shows, we drove as far way from our homes in canada as we could get. We would then show up at venues where a show was going on and tell them we were 2000 miles away from home, had a gig booked down the street but it somehow feel through. “Would you guys mind if we played a short set here tonight?” IT WORKED! We played countless shows this way.
- Since we rarely got paid more than a few drinks and sometimes pizza, we needed to make gas money.
- We had a laptop with the the tracks to our demo CD. We would go to best buy, get a CD burner and a couple spindles of blank cds. We would burn a hundred demos in the parking lot and then return the CD burner to Best Buy. we would then put the demos in zip lock bags. (hence the name of our first record….record in a bag)
- Once we had a stash of demos we would drive to the nearest mall and set up shop in front of Hot Topic (probly the most shameless thing we have done for our band). We would stand there for hours, with discmen and demos asking anyone who would stop to take a listen if they wanted to buy a demo in a bag. We could sell the discs for 5 bucks and still make $4.50 to put towards gas.
- We did this for 2 years. Anything to avoid having a real job, right?
- In febuary 2009, we released our first full length album for FREE online.
- That same month we invented the RESIDENCY TOUR. We took the old concept of playing a residency one day a week at the same bar and made it psyco. We booked 7 residencies for the month, one for each night of the week. Every Sunday of that cold February we played in at the same club in Boston, every monday at Piano’s in NYC, Tuesday was Lacolle Quebec, Wednesdays- Hamilton ontario, Thursdays – Toronto, Friday – Ottawa, Saturday – Montreal. Repeat 4 times. 28 shows in a row. over 12,000 miles of crap canadian winter driving in 28 days.
- In febuary 2010, we started our own record label to release “record in a bag” in stores in Canada. Although every distributor we talked to said it was impossible, we were finally able to convince one (Arts and Crafts) that we could literally package “record in a bag” in a ziplock bag filled with goodies. So far we have sold over 10,000 copies of it in Canada. With no label support, our first single “Juliette” went top 5 in mainstream Canadian alternative radio.
- Things began to take hold in Canada and we soon became privy to the Canadian grant system for touring acts. Still, when they gave us a budget to play a showcase in China, we took the budget and stretched it for all it was worth. We turned it into a 3 week tour deep into china. We recorded a song in mandarin chinese and released it on the internet in China. We were able to return for another tour 6 months later.
- We can play our instruments. We play live and we play live allot, hundreds of shows a year, we sweat. We take requests. We play covers we don’t know. We play for the audience, as much as each other, because without them we would still be in back Manotick, working jobs we hated. We play anywhere anytime. It is what we love more than anything.
- We listen to good bands (Petty, Roy Orbison, The Clash, Booker T, Paul Butterfield, John Prine). We have a strong conviction that pop music does not have to suck.
- We are 4 best friends (2 of the guys are brothers). We intend to do this for a long time. We want to have careers and catalogues that we can be proud of. Personally, i think, our song for the video you talked about is not nearly our stongest. Since then we have written a whole bunch more, and like anything else, they are getting better with practice.
- I truly believe we have a few songs on our album that really have heart and are really about things. i’d love for you to listen to our record, because although we are happy with what the video has accomplished creatively and exposure-wise, we are a rock band and the bottom line is that we make songs. it is for these reasons that i would like to invite you to see us live when we play in Los Angeles later this month. thanks for reading sincerely-Menno Versteeg
ps. Would you mind sending me your address so i can mail you a copy of “record in a bag”?
Bonus link (or watch below): Amazing Hollerado Video.
In The Know v1.37 Grab Bag Edition
Conventional wisdom is usually a disaster. An organization full of people with a solid work-life balance is liable to be both stress and profit free. As long as engagement is a surrogate for lower wages, it’s going to be a suspicious variable.
User Generated (free) material, the heart of Marketing 2.0, Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and Work 2.0. The whole version 2.0 thing seems to be a wealth transfer scheme. Out of the pockets of users and employees and into the pockets of their organizations. The collaboration backbone depends on a level of commitment that could only be understood as workaholism.
To say that the media (professional and decentralized) provides a hearty diet of completely mixed and contradictory ideas is to put it mildly.
This week’s links are intended to push against widely held ideas.
- Should You Hire Workaholics At Your Startup?
This article says “No”, sort of. The debate is an interesting one. The standard search for well-balanced, well rounded excellent contributors is a little misguided in a world of neurotics. The interesting question raised here is how you get the team to have that special something.
- 5 Tips for Startup Hiring
The article is a set of reminders for the rest of us. Recruiting is Marketing. More often than not, the best employees are the ones that find you. Figure out how to be found.
- The Real Cost of Free
Cory Doctorow takes a hard look at the cost and benefit of free content. He notes, interestingly, that the loudest voices for free content are the greatest beneficiaries. The tech community is squarely behind the idea of free content while the creative community has a more mixed view. This matters because the ultimate laws and policies regarding intellectual property are in serious flux. Social media and recruiting approaches that depend on individually generated content continue to be risky.
- Can Social Networks Be Generated Automatically?
What’s most clear about networks is how little we understand them. Almost all network analysis is based on the observation of artifacts of the relationship (email, postings etc). Very little effort is being expended to monitor actual networks. The difference between the two (observed artifacts and actual relationships) is huge.
- How to Break The Trust of Your Customers in Just One Day
The realities of the ‘freemium’ model might just be a little different than the hype. Here’s the story of a company that offered free services then raised the price. It’s a model of recovery from a major public screw up and good insight into the viability of companies offering free services.