The HRExaminer is a weekly magazine. Each week, the content builds, a piece at a time, until it is ready for the Friday edition.
In this week’s issue we take a look at a Master Mentor, Mary Kitson and also Marc Effron, Talent Manager also from our Top100 Influencers project. In our In-The-Know section we tackle “Six Key Business-y Links To Help You Think Beyond HR.” We wrap things up with a Review of Zeo, where we show you how a personal sleep coach product called the Zeo is the harbinger of how new levels of data to enhance our performance will be transforming HR. In case you haven’t caught our drift here on HR Examiner we close the issue with our Manifesto. Enjoy!
By John Sumser
Leverage is one of the keys to having long lasting influence while holding don an HR management job. Leverage means finding areas where the return for an investment of time is disproportionate. These facets of the craft of HR are not easy to identify. If they were, everyone would have enormous influence (and all of our investments would yield Bernie Maddoff returns).
Nonetheless, finding an arena where the returns are high is what makes the difference for a lot of influencers. Simple hard work, while a prerequisite, is never enough. Being smart, while handy, may have little or nothing to do with the question. Figuring out how to exploit a niche to deliver extraordinary benefit is the essence of self-made influence.
Obviously, some positions are better suited than others to building broad impact. Being a leader in a professional association, an industry analyst, an event producer, a trainer or a consultant all offer easier access to influence than working in the trenches. But, ‘dirt under your fingernails‘ provides credibility and understanding that you simply can’t develop at 30,000 feet. And, if you’re busy making an impact in a day to day job, it’s hard to reconcile the lofty generalized proclamations of the consulting crow with your day to day reality.
Mary Kitson generates influence and legacy where there appears to be none. Currently an OD Consultant for Government customers at MITRE, Kitson is the muscular energy behind an amazing grassroots training program. The NOVA/Dulles SHRM Mentoring Program is a benchmark model for managerial HR Training around the world. (Here’s their Recruiting Video featuring Mary.)
When she left school, one of Mary’s mentors advised her to get involved in SHRM as a part of building her career. She found the local Chapter and volunteered to work on the local mentoring program. She worked as a junior volunteer for a couple of years. What she found was just what you’d expect… a typical mentoring program that didn’t quite work because the mentors were too busy and the objectives too opaque.
In a delightful confluence of events, Mary got to take over the leadership of the program at about the same time that Fast Company published a story about the combination of mentoring and networking. Mary took advantage of the support of the chapter leadership and a couple of good ideas to reshape the offering.
“A major influence on the new mentoring program concept was Kathleen Ferris, the 1998 NOVA SHRM President. She encouraged a spirit of volunteerism, persuading members to give back to the chapter just one time – it was called a “one shot deal.” Mary Kitson had a light bulb moment when she realized it might be feasible to use the “one shot deal” volunteerism with the Senior Expert Mentors. The group mentoring program was formed from this concept of asking Senior Experts to share their knowledge and expertise with a small group of mentees on just one occasion – a commitment few can say “no” to.” (from the History of the NOVA/Dulles SHRM Mentoring Program)
The Program’s fact sheet tells much of the story. Some of it is obvious. After a decade, there are about 150 graduates of the program. That’s an astonishing legacy for a volunteer effort at a local chapter. The alumni network is well placed and active. Combining executive involvement and a collaborative partnership with each pair of participants, the mentoring program delivers shared experience and expanding effectiveness for everyone who touches it.
Kitson began her career in Recruiting. Of fifteen years in HR, about half were spent Recruiting. “It helps me keep perspective. Where lots of HR generalists don’t really understand the business that they’re in, you can’t be an effective recruiter without that understanding.”
She went on the get a Master’s in HR and moved into consulting. She currently does Workforce Analytics, Strategy, Planning, OD and Training. At MITRE, she works with consulting teams to help government clients with HR issues.
Mary functions as a network hub for a universe that extends well beyond the 150 alumni. In order to continue to evolve and improve the program, she gets to know key executives, ambitious professionals and every manner or careerist.
Influence that doesn’t come directly with the job takes a level head and an even hand. Figuring out how to move opportunity through a network while accomplishing your own goals takes patience, discipline and a strong intuition. Mary Kitson is a great example of how to do it.
People who work in HR have a difficult time influencing the profession or its direction. It’s just not possible, most of the time, to get a clear view of the big picture from one slot in the trenches. Because of this, most of the big ideas that move through the industry come from consultants, academics, vendors and publishers.
The folks who don’t work in HR have an advantage. In order to be a successful academic, consultant, publisher or vendor, you have to devote a significant portion of your resources to marketing. Working professionals and managers rarely get to spend their time, energy and money in this way. The ‘rubber chicken circuit’ is full of the freelancing types who drive the industry’s conversation.
Social media has the enormous potential to change this. Practitioners and their leaders now have the opportunity to see an influence the larger picture. In the move to democratize influence, unconferences are turning lectures into conversations. If you wanted to change the game, now would be the time.
Marc Effron is currently VP, Talent Management Avon Products. With his own epononymous website, a burgeoning talent network and a forthcoming book, he’s the model of future HR Rock stars. Effron infuses his day to day responsibilities with enthusiasm while building out the rest of his size extra large personal brand.
The Talent Management arena is exploding with new ideas, tools, software and approaches. Depending on who you ask, Talent Management is anything from a reframing of succession planning to a full reconsideration of the role of workforce planning. Effron is clever enough to understand that there is a critical intersection between the emerging theory and practitioners needs. He’s harnessed contemporary publishing ethics and tools to form a national network of Talent Management executives.
The New Talent Management Network describes itself as:
“a group of 1,600 senior talent management professionals interested in advancing this field. We share three primary goals:
- Improve talent management effectiveness by conducting original research that benefits the TM community
- Coordinate opportunities for local, free networking among TM professionals
- Increase the capabilities of TM professionals and raise the bar for this profession”
With impressive research resources, local gatherings in major cities and regular surveys, the New Talent Management Network is the sort of all-volunteer effort that creates sustained change. As social media integrates further and further into industry discourse, this sort of low-overhead, high value organization will be evermore visible. Effron’s managerial skill set is in evidence.
The new book (in stores mid-Spring, 2010) is called One Page Talent Management: Eliminating Complexity, Adding Value. You can get a feel for the content by skimming through this presentation on One Page Talent Management. Essentially, Effron assaults old school HR, validating the charges levied in the various forms of “Why We Hate HR” articles and studies presented in recent years. A McKinsey study says: “Executives do not see the HR function as having the influence and capabilities to shape effective talent-management strategies.” He then proposes a simple (not simplistic) approach to executing Talent Management solutions. His mantra? Avoid unnecessary complexity.
So how did a mid level HR manager at a big company make such an enormous impact?
After undergraduate school, Effron began his professional career in politics. A paid internship with a local congressman evolved quickly into a role with a company that worked to elect candidates who favored growth. After a few years, Effron began to think of his work as narrow and decided to go to Business School.
A Yale MBA led to a series of jobs in a variety of HR settings. Starting in a boutique HR Consultancy, he moved through Oxford Health Care, Bank of America, back to consulting for Hewitt, and finally to Avon where he works today. With nearly 17 years of HR experience under his belt, Effron is proof that effective careers require learning a culture, making a contribution and moving on.
It is well worth noting that his LinkedIn profile makes no mention of affiliation with a professional association other than the New Talent Management Network.
Marc Effron is a role model for a working professional who wants to wield influence in the industry. Broad career moves in a variety of setting, publications, a reputation as an engaging speaker and willingness to experiment beyond conventional thinking are the hallmarks of his approach.
In The Know
In The Know v2.01
Six Key Business-y Links To Help You Think Beyond HR
- Peopleclick Authoria Merger
Jason Corsello on yesterday’s meger. The cats and dogs strategy perfected by Workstream is one way of thinking about industry consolidation. It looks like both parties to this deal needed financial relief.
- Do You Learn Social? Do You Lead Social?
Little is written about the practicalities of integrating social media and social software driven behavior into the organization. The arguments mostly center on the ‘who’s in charge’ question. This piece is an early starting point for figuring out the viability of a social media project. Some good notes on the kind of management participation required for success.
- Professional Conference Video With Semi-Professional Equipment
More training happens with handmade video.
- Science Doesn’t Work Like You Think It Does
More often than not, the best science labs fail. Over 50% of the data collected is other than predicted. This Wired article examines new data about the mechanics of science. A new pattern is proposed that would be a good operating procedure for any strategic plan or project commitment.
1) Check Your Assumptions Ask yourself why this result feels like a failure. What theory does it contradict? Maybe the hypothesis failed, not the experiment.
2) Seek Out the Ignorant Talk to people who are unfamiliar with your experiment. Explaining your work in simple terms may help you see it in a new light.
3) Encourage Diversity If everyone working on a problem speaks the same language, then everyone has the same set of assumptions. 4
4) Beware of Failure-Blindness It’s normal to filter out information that contradicts our preconceptions. The only way to avoid that bias is to be aware of it.
- CEO Compensation Research: Why You Want Rich People to Set Your Pay
Bob Sutton (from last Spring) on the relationship between pay and performance in the Executive Suite.
- The Secret About Innovation Secrets
The word ‘secret’ should throw a red flag for you. Here’s the money quote: “To invent or create is to take a bet against the unknown. No matter what you do, you are still betting you can do well in the face of many things that are out of your control. Don’t like that? Don’t want uncertainty? Then do something else. Comfort with risk and uncertainty is the real secret. Or at least acceptance of the fact you can work your ass off for uncertain rewards. Anyone who wants to create something new is placing a bet that their view of the future is better than everyone elses’, or at least their competitors. It’s no surprise many of the elite CEOs/Innovators/Inventors have supremely large egos – they likely had these character traits well before they became famous.“
I got a ZEO for Christmas. Billed as a ‘sleep coach’, the product is the tip of the iceberg in the next wave of consumer goods. Zeo measures and analyzes your sleep patterns with the general idea that one can take charge of one’s nocturnal productivity.
You wear a headband that wirelessly interacts with a device that resembles an alarm clock. Over the course of the time you’re in bed, the ZEO measures four sleep modes: awake, light sleep, REM sleep and deep sleep. In the morning, you get a score and a graph. The graph shows how your sleep went in five minute increments measuring which of the four modes you were in.
On some routine basis (seems like daily is probably right), you upload the data to the Myzeo.com website for analysis.
Once you establish a baseline, Zeo offers online coaching for optimizing the benefit you get from a good night’s sleep. As an added bonus, the alarm clock knows the optimum time to wake you. This feature helps avoid the horrible feeling you get when an alarm clock drags you out of a deep slumber. That hard-to-wake-up state is called ‘sleep inertia‘ and can take hours to recover from. Zeo offers a gentler waking experience.
The insight available from the Zeo is pretty amazing. For instance, whether or not you actually had a good night’s sleep doesn’t seem to be directly related to whether or not feel you did. As is often the case, self-insight can be dramatically skewed from the reality of a situation. Learning that my nightly ‘z-score’ was somewhat higher than the average for my age had the effect of making me change my mind about how well I am sleeping.
The more interesting prospect is the coaching part of the product. Essentially, Zeo offers a years worth of coaching and observing. Over that time, the service provides training, experimentation and insight. The online tools that are embedded in the service are designed to help you understand what is good about your particular sleep patterns and what might be improved. The product goal is to get you the best night’s sleep possible.
By now, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with HR.
Zeo is simply the forefront of an emerging trend. As sensors become embedded in everything, we are going to learn to use new levels of data to enhance our performance. Sleep is the first frontier. Self-monitoring or self-quantification will shift the way that people see themselves and the way that organizations operate.
A fairly interesting debate on the pros and cons of letting these devices into the workplace is the subject of a panel discussion I moderated over at Glassdoor.com. Although it’s framed as a medical information issue there, the subject is much more interesting than a health care debate. There are decided health-care implications. The real zinger, however, is in the area of one’s ability to control and transform one’s body and circumstances.
The following presentation will give you an idea of some of the many services that are becoming available. More than an medical information issue, this is a business productivity question. Increased personal awareness of health, fitness and behavioral factors will give people vastly more control over their performance.
HR Examiner Manifesto
Results and insight come from doing. HR Examiner shows you how its done and who is doing it.
An HR operation committed to excellence is a significant competitive advantage. HR Examiner demonstrates that innovation is in the execution and that HR’s ability to find and develop people uniquely positions HR to accelerate their companies’ results.
There is no one-size-fits-all HR approach. Each company is different. We show you the people, systems and products that are changing the places we work and how we think about work. You connect the dots.
At HRExaminer, the story begins and ends with people – they are the story. The Leaders who transform HR into a thriving business contributor are at the heart of our study. We show you how they got there and how they do it. We help illuminate the amazing power of HR – well executed.
HR Examiner—what works.