Archive for the ‘Talent Management’ Category

Performance Management: Dynamic not Static

Monday, May 7th, 2007

Recently I reviewed a five page performance appraisal tool used by a software company that they believed was excellent, and they couldn’t understand why very few people were using the tool. I brought up the notion of Dynamic appraisals vs. Static appraisals. Static is a one off event completed to cover compensation issues. Dynamic is an evolutionary process that is nurtured and grows more like an organism that adapts to the business, market and behaviors.

After our discussion they started asking a lot of interesting questions; How do we get folks to adopt a dramatic approach rather than a check box approach? Can HR be the drivers of the adoption? What role should business leaders play?

These are the right questions that need to be asked, and now they are turning the tide by facilitating business adoption through aligning business leaders to competency drivers that bring out optimal performance. Optimal performance is getting people focused on their strengths and designing functional areas so that the collection of individual skills are stronger than any single individual. In other words, creating synergy that drives the business based on KSAs that are motivated and dynamic rather than static.

Static drivers create status quo performance, and aren’t very measurable. Dynamic drivers are immediately impacted by the market, competitors, economy, etc. We can prepare for changes, ie: gas prices increasing, and have contingency plans. Building performance management systems that focus on dynamic business processes will allow an organization to have more dynamic focus on growing the business rather than maintaining it.

Does this make sense? Is it just easier to manage performance by static events? Can anyone share an example where the business drives Dynamic Performance Management?

Please let me know your thoughts.

- Nat Boughton

HR as a Discipline

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

One of the core problems in getting the most out of people is that HR gets treated as a kind of black art. Everything is wrapped in a veil of compliance, secrecy, and touchy-feeliness (I made that word up). The HR practictioner’s are often generalists who are trusted (they deal with compensation information) and well liked (that’s what HR is about isn’t it), but there is a lack of business discipline in their approach.

According to’s new article, HR Dinosaur’s, some HR departments view HR as an "art" rather than management science. The article advocates technology as a solution. While I don’t agree that technology alone will solve the HR problem, there is a need for systematic approaches to managing the talent in the organization. Here are four key problems from the article that arise from a lack of business discipline in HR.

  1. Silo’s: As long as their jobs remain a mystery, they are powerful. They build power by limiting information and controlling access to management on anything HR related. They use the need for secrecy around compensation and HR issues to drive this secrecy. But the strategic power of HR doesn’t come from compensation, compliance, or handling behavioral issues. There needs to be consistency, transparency, and partnership between HR and the organization when it comes to getting people in the right jobs.
  2. No measurements: What are the result metrics associated with HR? There don’t tend to be any. If there are any, the metrics are around how quickly jobs are filled. Not around how well the jobs are filled. Or, they are around legal and compliance issues. Everyone has the training required by law and all the paperwork is in place to protect the business from law suits. There is no value add in this, just risk management. This is like everyone else showing up to work. The metrics should be to make that there are no Knowledge, Skill, or Ability related obstacles to successful job performance. HR should be making sure that qualified people are getting hired, placed, developed, and measured so the organization can achieve its strategy.
  3. Relationships rule: Instead of using business results to determine HR investments, they are made based on who has the best relationships with HR. Want more money for some special training you think will benefit your employees, take the HR person to lunch and smooth talk him.
  4. They are not experts: This is my favorite quote from the article. They are just "highly paid HR assistants who help general managers fill out forms, get through the performance appraisal process and handle troublesome people issues." 

We have reached tremendous value in organizations through process improvement and technology. In an economy that is moving towards service and knowledge as the accelerators of value, we need to establish systematic ways to leverage the talent in our organizations. This is done through the application of systematic business discipline to placing, developing and measuring the peformance of the people in our organizations.

Is HR serving a purpose beyond compensation, legal compliance, benefits, and behavioral issues in your company? Does your organization have a systematic method for ensuring that the right decisions about talent are being made? How important is this to your company today? How important will it be in the next five years? Is it time for your HR organization to start running HR with business discipline?

What will you be doing in 10 years?

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Once again, Tom Peters provides inspiration for what we are trying to do at Synaptus. In his post yesterday Now Don’t You Worry Your Little Self…,  he raises the alarm about 40 million jobs moving out of the US in the next 10 years.

40 million jobs, is that a lot? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are about 150 million Americans in the work force. 40 million jobs moving overseas is over 25% of the jobs in the US. What could cause this to happen?

China has 798 million people in their labor force. India has 509 million workers available in their labor force. Their real wages are far below the US and Europoe. As education rises in these countries and communication technology improves, businesses will move work to where it can be performed well-enough at the best cost.

Stop and think about what this means. The way companies do work is going to change.  We are just entering the knowledge-based, or project-based, or information-based world. My kids will be entering the job force as this world becomes predominant. It took 50-100 years to get really good at managing industrial based organizations. The businesses and individuals that figure out how to thrive in this new world of work are the ones that will survive and grow.

Aligning a dynamic organization with strategy, understanding and improving processes across your business (regardless of your organizations boundaries), productive collaboration, talent management, and project management become key skills to build and manage organizations that will thrive now and survive in future.

The ability to gain competive advantage from these shifts, both for you and your organization, is there today. On the other hand, 10 years is a long way away. You can wait for someone else to figure out how to run businesses profitably and manage the new workforce. I chose not to wait. What will you be doing in 10 years?

Diversity in Project Management

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

I have had discussions in the last week with managers at three different global companies. All mentioned that outsourcing was in their future in one way or another. Their companies are looking for Project Managers to support this outsourcing. I started to think about the skills of the project managers in their organizations. Technically competent, bottom line results oriented, masters of Microsoft Project and documentation.

We like to define the Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes that are best suited for people performing capabilities. Knowledge is the body of facts and information that a person acquires. Skills are the capacities that people develop through training and experience. Attitudes are beliefs and opinions that support or inhibit behavior.

Attitudes are important. I might not be a good candidate for an administrative support role in a doctor’s office. The attitudes that I have about what I like to work on would make coding insurance forms everyday feel tedious. I would not enjoy that job. Although I am capable of developing the knowledge and skills to do this job, there is no learning or training that can change my attitudes about what I want to do for work. There are people that probably would not enjoy studying organizational journals and management literature all the time or who do not enjoy going into new companies and facing new challenges every month or so. They could develop the knowledge and skills to do what I do, but they do not share my attitudes about what makes work fun.

I believe that the KSA’s for the project manager of today will be different from the KSA’s of the project manager needed where organizations have outsourced overseas. The biggest gap I see is that the attitudes needed to operate as an internal driver and administrator are different from the attitudes needed to facilitate the diversity that arises when organizations outsource. If these project managers fail, it will take a terrible toll on the organizations performance. We can train on the knowledge and develop the skills. However, we need to be selecting project managers that have an attitudes aligned to handle diversity and collaboration needed in an outsourced business model. Has your business thought about this? How is your business addressing this issue?

The Forgotten Art of Coaching

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal, "Managers Lose Talent When They Neglect To Coach Their Staffs", that reminded how negligent organizations are for not teaching the leaders the difference between coaching and managing.  In my first book, "Stop Managing, Start Coaching", we discussed the need to turn all managers and leaders into Performance Coaches focused on driving business results through motivating, challenging and demanding excellence from everyone they directly and indirectly interact with.  As the article stated 70%  employees feel "not engaged" or "actively disengaged".  How tragic is that….

Managers must learn to act as Performance Coaches. By having Performance Coaches focused on four critical areas, you can eliminate this apathy and create a business driven culture.  The four areas of focus are: Leading, Confronting, Developing, and Mentoring.  Let’s take a second to discuss each of these areas. 

Leading is the key and if you go to our link at you can get a free copy of our Pragmatic Leadership Workbook.

Confronting is the most overlooked aspect of becoming a successful Performance Coach.   Dealing with conflict in a constructive and collaborative manner is critical to the success of any team, department or organization.  Using Conflict Resolution Methodology for dealing with behavioral conflict, as well as, using a Collaborative methodology for dealing with conflict of need or resources is essential in driving collaborative communication.

Developing is the responsibility of both the employee and the Performance Coach.  The Performance Coach needs to confront the performance gaps that exist.  By providing a framework for identifying success inhibitors, and development stretch assignments that allow for the employee to develop the appropriate knowledge, skills, and attitude to have great success.

Mentoring is the responsibility of all Performance Coaches.  The most successful arrangement are those that are informal.  Mentoring is about teaching individuals the internal systems, "rules", and land mines that exist inside the organization.

Organizations must change their view of coaching, the business impact and ROI is significant and critical to the success of the business.  Without coaching organizations will continue to suffer from low morale, low productivity and a revolving door of talent.

Choose coaching!!   

Workforce 2015

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

I read a very interesting article in the Boston Globe over the weekend about what the workforce is going to look like as the baby boomers start to retire. Over the next 5 years the 45-54 year workforce is projected to drop by 10%, and that number will continue to decrease. 60% of employers surveyed already feel it is difficult recruiting competent workers. With the Gen Xers focused on self, and the companies focused on short term profits, how are we going to remain competitive? What are the kinds innovative talent management processes, systems and tools that must be embraced.

The most shocking new is that at some companies 30-40% of their workforce could retire over the next 10 years. We already know that there is a war on talent, but how devastating can this be to our economy let alone the potential dramatic impact on our competitiveness. Organizations have such a tendency to be short term focused, and only a small percentage of companies are even looking at this issue. We already know that the baby boomers (me included) haven’t saved enough for retirement. I am really curious what your thoughts are on how we can maintain our competitive edge and manage the balance between profitability and talent management.

Thanks, Nat (

Which comes first?

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Gemba Panta Rei has an article that is relevant to, People or Process, a recent post on this blog. I think this highlights the benefit of looking at process or environment first when you have a people issue.

"in Japan the first response to a high rate of absenteeism is to conduct root cause analysis into the behavior of absenteeism, leading to kaizen. In Europe the management would replace the worker who had an attendance problem with another workers. Problem not solved, but deferred."

If its a flawed process, or if you have a flawed understanding of competencies necessary to perform the job, switching people out does not solve the problem. Combining a quality process with a clear understanding of the innate competencies and values required to be successful in the job is a powerful combination. Much more powerful than either applied independently.

People or Process

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

I’ve been engaged in a conversation with Gary Farush over at ComplexWork regarding whether performance issues can be addressed by people or process. We agreed that sometimes its people and sometimes its process. Gary contends that people tend to get blamed first, and that by not addressing the process issues they tend to recreate the same problems.

This is probably true. People don’t do bad work because they want too. They tend to act in they way that makes the most sense to them. So, when expected results aren’t being delivered, you should look at these five process/organizational environment issues before you start blaming the people.

1. Inertia or Momentum: "That’s the way we’ve always done it"

2. Conflicting Priorities: Compensation or rewards are in conflict with specific objectives. Or a person is being pulled in multiple directions by various levels of management.

3. Bad Inputs from Upstream in the Process: The person is having to deal with poor requirements or bad inputs from upstream.

4. Lack of Tools, Knowledge, or Understanding: A person can’t perform their job satisfactorily if they aren’t made capable through enabling technologies, training, or expectations.

5. Management Inattention: The work itself is not being managed. This can actually manifest itself as any of the prior four points.

All of these causes can be identified, managed, and the impact on your business reduced. There is also a very issue though that certain jobs require specific skills and innate competencies. Skills can be trained. Innate competencies are part of how people are wired.  When you have addressed the five problems above and performance doesn’t improve, match the competencies of the people to those best suited for that job. Also, it is probably smart to ensure when hiring that you getting people with the best set of innate competencies for the job.

What are the new key skills for IT

Friday, March 16th, 2007 points to an article on that talks about the rise of relationship management skills over technical skills in IT organizations. This is driven by the automation and outsourcing of IT capabilities. The IT employee of the near future will be more likely to be handing customer service requests and managing vendor relationships than plugging in hardware, installing or configuring software, or writing code.

“Morello said IT organizations will become increasingly automated and outsourced. As a result, IT employees will be asked to fill multiple roles, rather than just focus on a single job. And one of their most important roles will be managing "points of interface" with other parts of the business. “

“IT employees will need to speak the same language as business stakeholders. This means less demand for specialists (IT employees with a deep understanding of specific technology) and generalists (IT employees who have a broad set of relatively shallow technology skills). IT will still need technical skills, but the most valuable technical employees will know how they can apply those skills to different situations in different parts of the business.“

So project management, collaboration, and customer service will be the key capabilities of IT. And new capabilities to create a common business framework to focus and align a distributed organization will be necessary. How many of your key employees are being hired or developed with these skills in mind? What framework are you putting in place today to create a common understanding of what the business actually does?

Business Cards Tell a Story

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

I have had an interesting experience the last few days. I have been going through all my old business cards to try to reconnect to people whom I have met with over the last decade. My goal is to expand my network of people I have met with in the past and introduce them to the blog. The interesting thing is how many of the people no longer work at the business they worked at in the past. My sample is about 300 business cards that I held onto and is not a very controlled study. These are only people that I spoke with and sent an email to after meeting them.

A brief survey says that only business owners are still at the companies they were at 10 years ago.  Over 70% of people are not with companies they were with five years ago. About 50% are not with the companies they were with over 2 years ago. I don’t know how this matches up to national averages.  But I bet it is representative of the huge amount of employee turnover faced by most companies. In many businesses the knowledge lives within the people. Sales people and customer service people have relationships with customers. Working consultants have practical knowledge about how products "actually" work at the customer. Internal management and employees have the knowledge of how things got the way they are. All of this is critical to the success of the business and the costs of turnover are much higher than just the cost of hiring and training a new person.

What are the steps to managing this cost? Maybe we should reduce the ability of people to hold value away from the business. But this reduces their sense of contribution, reducing performance and driving up turnover. Maybe we should capture knowledge in large databases. But even knowledge management practitioners realize that capturing the knowledge is very difficult and that getting people to go out and find the knowledge to reuse is impractical. Another way is to encourage people to talk about their knowledge with their co-workers. Build out the knowledge in the business. Increase the sense of contribution of knowledge workers and increase productivity by sharing learned experiences throughout the business. What are some ways to manage the relationship between employee retention and knowledge? What have you seen that works to address this problem?