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Promoting High Performers to their First Leadership Role

What does promotion mean to you? A step up the ladder, expanding your skill set, a pay rise? At some point, promotion is likely to mean a move to a management position. When hiring for management roles, senior leaders typically gravitate towards high performers, assuming those who have mastered their current role are the perfect choice for leadership. In reality, great workers don’t always make great managers, and turning your high performers into spectacular leaders requires more than a promotion.

The Challenges Facing New Leaders

New managers have to stop focusing on their own performance and become an inspiration to others, delivering results at a team or even organisational level. For many, this involves developing an entirely new skill set.

Australian Managers leadership survey

Motivation and Alignment

The ability to influence, motivate, and inspire a team is essential for managerial success¹. Without it, poor performance, disengaged individuals, and low staff retention are the inevitable result.

Managers play a pivotal role in ensuring employees are invested in their work, aligned with organisational objectives, and productive². If new managers have no understanding of employee engagement, top-down communication, or alignment strategy, they lack the tools to get the best out of their team

Need a refresher on aligning employees to organisational goals? Check out my article, Aligning People P2: The Role of the Manager.

Feedback

Delivering feedback is no easy task, it’s a skill that took many of us years to master. Imagine how much more nerve-racking it is evaluating individuals who were recently peers?

With potential trust issues to navigate, little experience of goal setting or managing different personality types, providing actionable feedback is a potential minefield for new managers.

Looking for tips to master performance conversations? Check out my article on the psychology behind workplace feedback.

Delegating

Tasked with succeeding at a team level, new managers have no individual control over their goals for possibly the first time in their careers. For high performers used to exceeding expectations, the desire to micro-manage is a difficult one to fight³.

Those that are comfortable delegating have yet more problems to face. With no previous management experience – and in some cases knowledge of their team – judging attainable goals and knowing which individuals are capable of delivering autonomously is all but impossible.

Planning and Organising

Critical thinking is crucial to managerial success¹, but it is not a skill that’s common in junior roles. Suddenly required to establish priorities, streamline workflows and think autonomously, many new managers struggle to identify the best strategy for success at a team level. Without these skills, new managers often feel as though they are underperforming, leading to poor team productivity at best and, at worst, an exodus of high performers.

How to Promote to Leadership

A leadership role is completely different to any other. Creating confident, able managers begins long before promotion.

Training

Individuals with the possibility of promotion are more engaged and committed to their employer⁴. Providing management training is a great way to reward high performers, encourage loyalty, and increase managerial competency. In fact, those given developmental assignments before promotion have been shown to make much better leaders in the long run⁵.

Training can take many forms. Those of you who caught my article on managing freelancers will know I’m a big fan of facilitated learning. By providing employees with the opportunity to take on new responsibilities, you give them the freedom to develop their skills organically, solving problems and adjusting their strategy to create an approach that works for them.

Of course, self-learning has its limits, and there are situations where having someone with experience on-hand to offer advice is invaluable. Assigning a mentor to help an individual develop their managerial skills is a great way to ensure they are ready when the time comes to take on a leadership role.

Mentors are facilitators rather than instructors. They provide advice and guidance, but it is the mentee who takes responsibility for the outcome. Encouraging future managers to own a solution boosts their confidence, promotes critical thinking and encourages high performers to move from an individual ‘what do I need to accomplish’ mentality to a wider, team perspective.

Experience

Exposing potential managers to leadership situations means that, when they do make the jump, they have a thorough understanding of what is expected of them. It also gives individuals the opportunity to identify which skills they need to work on and where their strengths lie.

Enabling promising candidates to shadow other leaders is one of the best ways to deliver this perspective. Placing them in departments outside of their own offers a number of other advantages, broadening individual understanding of wider organisational goals and strengthening interdepartmental relationships.

Providing cover during a leader’s absence is another way for potential managers to hone their skills and gain much needed experience.

Discussion

Open discussions of employees’ long-term goals, strengths and weaknesses feature highly in all the best performance management systems. If, with experience of management, individuals are still keen to move up, then place them in a team leader or junior management role. If, however, an individual decides leadership is not suited to them, help them expand their role to make the best use of their strengths and skills.

Don’t forget, even with the appropriate groundwork, a promotion does not create a leader. New managers need ongoing coaching and development from senior staff to help them succeed in their new roles⁵. Check out my article on the seven skills all exceptional leaders need for an in-depth look at what it takes to make a manager.

To Sum Up…

Leadership is not a natural progression; it takes time, training, and support to turn high performers into fantastic managers.

What did your career progression look like? Feel free to share your experiences, I’d love to hear your take on management training and progression.

References

¹Muller and Turner, 2010. Leadership competency profiles of successful project
managers. International Journal of Project Management, 28. pp. 437- 448.

²Cartwright and Holmes, 2006. The meaning of work: the challenge of regaining employee engagement and reducing cynicism. Human Resource Management Review, 16. pp. 199 – 208.

³White, 2010. The micro-management disease: symptoms, diagnosis and cure. Public Personnel Management, 39 (1).

⁴Kosteas, 2011. Job satisfaction and promotions. Cleveland State University (Thesis).

⁵Dragoni et al., 2009. Understanding managerial development: integrating developmental assignments, learning orientation, and access to developmental opportunities in predicting managerial competencies. Academy of Management Journal, 52 (4), pp. 731-743.

Talent Management Rankings: Our Kind of Olympics

With Rio in full swing and the country getting competitive, what better time to take a look at the all-stars dominating our favourite sport, Talent Management? Time to find out who won big in the categories that really matter; Onboarding, Performance Management, and Learning Management.

 

Talent Management rankings - Medalllists

Gold

Those of you who read my article on onboarding and employee success will know that well-designed onboarding practices are key to ensuring new hires integrate quickly and perform at their best. Amazon-owned retailer Zappos took the gold in this category for its focus on protecting and promoting company culture above all else.

Landing a job at Zappos isn’t easy. The retailer puts the same emphasis on personality and cultural fit as skills and experience, applicants have a 1.5% chance of receiving a job offer¹. But an offer doesn’t mean new hires can breathe easy. Whatever their level or department, everyone goes through the same four week course, receiving extensive training in customer service and company values².

At the end of the four weeks, new hires have two options; head to the office and get started, or take a $2000 payout and leave if they don’t fit the company culture. Less than 2% opt to take the money and run³, with 98% starting work on Monday engaged and committed, knowing exactly what to expect.

Silver

Facebook scooped silver for an onboarding process that is fast and engagement focused. New hires arrive to find their requested PCs, personal devices, and systems all set up and ready to go; but it’s the developers’ boot camp that really won the day for the social media goliath. Developers aren’t hired for specific teams and departments. Instead, they spend six weeks training at HQ and get to choose which department to work in when they graduate⁵, cherry picking the projects that most excite them.

Bronze

These guys are secretive, but rumour has it Apple is a find your own feet kind of employer. New hires are greeted on their first day by any specialist tools they need, a new iMac, and a t-shirt with ‘class of’ and the year of joining. They are expected to dive right in, set up their own computers and introduce themselves to co-workers⁵. It isn’t for everyone, but this ‘do-or-die’ approach certainly means employees hit the ground running.

Talent Management rankings - Medalllists

Gold

I’ve spoken before about Google’s performance management process, so it should come as no surprise that it romped home in first place. This well-deserved gold was awarded for the search giant’s extensive research and the resulting unbiased, 360-degree performance management processes.

Google’s research into employee performance identified two main factors influencing success; clearly written goals, and frequent conversations between individuals and managers⁶. These findings form the basis of a complex, 360-degree feedback cycle that begins with self-evaluation before peers review an individual’s fit with the company culture (a.k.a Googleyness), analytical abilities, execution, thought leadership, leadership, and presence. Peers grade based on strengths, weaknesses, and contributions⁷.

This feedback is used by managers to provide a draft grade, a non-numerical evaluation on a five point scale that ranges from ‘needs improvement’ to ‘superb’. All performance data then goes through a calibration stage, where heavy-handed or lenient graders are identified and employee scores adjusted⁷; giving employees an accurate, unbiased view of their performance.

Silver

Beauty subscription service Birchbox has a dedicated People & Culture team that manages the complete employee experience, with a focus on aligning individuals to organizational goals⁴.

Bi-monthly pulse checks and two yearly, quantitative studies mean they can guide managers and board members on how best to align employees and skills to developmental strategy and initiatives⁴. This integrated approach to business growth and performance management was well-deserving of a silver medal, don’t you think?

Bronze

Goldman Sachs is breaking the mould with its recently overhauled performance management system. Designed to improve staff retention, the Wall Street stalwart has swapped its traditional numerical grading system (complete with automatic layoffs for the bottom 5% of performers) for a qualitative approach almost unheard of in the financial sector⁸.

Now, the focus is on providing high-quality, continuous feedback. Reviews are conducted earlier in the year, giving individuals a chance to improve before bonus time⁸. To reduce grading bias, the new system even uses a similar calibration method to Google⁷.

Talent Management rankings - Medalllists

Gold

Global consulting firm Cognizant was streaks ahead of the competition and landed gold for its Millennial-friendly approach and focus on integrated learning.

With a predominantly Millennial workforce⁹, many who work on-site with clients, the Cognizant learning and development (L&D) strategy needed to be agile, mobile and engaging. The company rose to the challenge, producing multiple learning platforms such as blogs, customized portals, live webcasts, and discussion forums⁹. But the jewel in its L&D crown is ‘One Cognizant’ an app store boasting over 50 learning apps. From gamification to ebooks and progress planners, individuals can choose the tools best suited to their learning style⁹.

Recognising that L&D is an essential element of organisational grown, Cognizant’s ‘5D’ approach to content focuses on aligning learning with long-term objectives. The senior team establish organisational goals first, identifying potential impediments and their solutions, and provide a mix of informal, formal, and collaborative learning initiatives that enable staff to deliver on those goals⁹.

Silver

Like Cognizant, silver medal winner Hilton Worldwide delivers a suite of learning tools to a global workforce. Its L&D strategy is focused on maximising employee performance with self-guided tutorials, interactive workshops, one-to-one training and courses. Learning is typically tailored to the needs of the individual, with employees identifying their own skills gaps and receiving the training and support they need to address themⁱ⁰.

Bronze

Healthcare provider Virgin Care has recently been shortlisted for the Employee Engagement Award thanks to its ‘People Flourish’ learning management system. In a sector known for its apathy to learning and development, this revolutionary program provides staff with leadership training; delivering four modules on people, personalities, and behaviours that are designed to help individuals progress to management positions. It’s an investment that’s paying off, with the program delivering a 22% increase in employee retention¹¹.

To Sum Up…

The tech sector dominated our talent management competition, scooping gold in both the learning and onboarding categories. However, we’re already starting to see Silicon Valley’s innovations trickle into more traditional sectors, as demonstrated by both Goldman Sachs and Virgin Healthcare. These guys are rejecting the typical model of Talent Management in their industries and are already reaping the rewards. Let’s hope more employers follow suit – by 2020 this is likely to be a far more hotly contested race!

Any ideas here you could borrow? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these approaches. Would any work in your office?

References

1Michelle, J. 2011. The Zappos Experience. Inc.com
2Zappos. 2016. Onboarding Fact Sheet. Zappos
3Reynolds, 2016. 3 Companies With the Most Unique Employee Onboarding Process. TinyPulse.
4Doshi and Gregor. 2015. The secret to an ideal work culture. Time Magazine.
5Bhattacharyya, 2016. Employee Onboarding at Facebook, Google and Apple. The Qustn Cafe.
6L&D, 2016. How performance feedback is evolving. L&D.
7QCulture, 2015. Google’s Performance Management Practices. QCulture.
8Shen, 2016. Goldman Sachs is about to make life a bit less stressful for employees. Fortune.
9Meister, 2014. Cognizant Academy: Lessons from a 2020 Learning Organisation. Forbes.
10Association for Talent Development. 2014. Hilton Worldwide. ATD.
11Virgin Care, 2016. Virgin Care Shortlisted for Employee Engagement Award. Virgin Care.

Talent Management Talk #5 – The talent management that powered Outware’s rapid rise

In this edition of Talent Management Talk I chat with Eytan Lenko. Eytan is a Founder and Director at Outware Mobile, an 110-person mobile development company that builds apps for many of Australia’s biggest brands (ANZ, Google, Visa, AFL and Coles to name a few).

In this interview we discuss:

  • Eytan’s transition from software developer to director (0:22)
  • How Outware selects and develops technical staff as leaders (4:35)
  • Building high performance teams at Outware (5:59)
  • How Outware has developed its own version of agile performance management (8:25)
  • Outware’s vision, and what’s next for the company (11:14)

Subsequent to this interview being filmed, Outware was acquired by Melbourne IT in a transaction valuing the company at up to $67 million. That’s pretty impressive for a five-year-old company of just over 100 people!

You can watch the full 12-minute discussion or read the transcript below.

Jon Windust: 

Hello everybody, I’m here today with Eytan Lenko who is a director at a fast growing Australian start-up company called Outware Mobile. Outware are leaders in mobile software development. Welcome Eytan.

Eytan Lenko: 

Thank you.

The journey from developer to director of Outware

Jon Windust: 

Could you tell us a little bit about your journey? I understand you started as a software developer and now you’re leading a fast growing company of 110 people. What has that journey been like?

Eytan Lenko: 

Sure. I studied engineering at university and went on to become a software engineer. I guess from pretty early on in my career, it wasn’t so much about sitting at the computer and coding, it was also about that human element. So I moved into consulting. I did a lot of freelance and contract work where I was working closely with the people that I was building the software for: like trading systems, working with traders, that sort of thing.

Around 2009 we started Outware. I got together with a couple of old friends and we saw a big opportunity in terms of mobile. The iPhone was out. The app store had just opened up and we saw that there was a big opportunity. At that point everyone was talking about kind of gimmicky apps and fast apps.

But we could see that the apps were going to be a pretty serious thing in the corporate world. We thought if we could work to build a great team, a local team based in Australia that could build great apps and satisfy that need, then that would be a good niche to get into.

I remember sitting around early with the two guys. In the early days, we were doing the coding ourselves and we were doing everything ourselves. We kind of had this vision that we’d get to become a boutique company of maybe 10 people. We weren’t quite expecting at that point that we’d grow within five years to be over 100 people, in five years.

So in terms of my journey within the company, I started off programming when I needed to but also going out and pitching to customers. I really was just wearing lots of different hats.

What encouraged Outware to build a HR department?

Eytan Lenko: 

I think for the first two and a half to three years of the company, we had almost no staff turnover. Everyone was really involved and passionate working closely with the founders. We had a few people leave just because they were going to live overseas but basically there was effectively no turnover.

Then we kind of got to the point where we had a spate of people that had been with the company for a while, two or three or four of them leaving in a similar time. That was really a big moment for the directors. Obviously they’re people that we used to spend a lot of time with, and we don’t spend as much time with them anymore because the company’s grown and we’re so busy. We don’t go out for lunch with the team every day, so our finger is not on the pulse in terms of the culture and what people are doing and how people are feeling.

Also there was a whole lot of other stuff that we were interested in. As we were growing and we were winning bigger pieces of work, we needed to make sure that we had a more aligned skillset to what we were trying to achieve. Basically we were becoming more structured as a company and we needed to have a bit more structure in the way that we did our HR.

That was really kind of the trigger, was around making sure that we were doing something about retention and guaranteeing the continuation of our culture but also structuring HR a little bit better so that not every salary review is kind of ad-hoc, the negotiation with the director is done one-on-one, that we have pay scales and that sort of thing.

How did Outware create a unique culture?

Eytan Lenko: 

I remember when we were about 10-15 people, we all sat down and did one of those sessions where we work out what the values of Outware were…. what it means to be someone working at Outware. That was the point where we were really starting to accelerate growth. We could see we were going to have a lot of new people joining the team, and I guess we had this core early team that really wanted to put their stamp on what the culture of the company was going to be.

How do you identify potential leaders in a group of software developers?

Jon Windust: 

How do you go about identifying leaders within that group… we’re talking about people who like sitting there thinking about their code all day. How do you identify people within that group that actually want to be leaders and who are suitable to be leaders?

Eytan Lenko: 

It wasn’t a massive challenge for us I think by the nature of our work. Because it’s project based and there’s a lot of client interaction, it was pretty easy to see the developers that were really great technically but also the ones that were better at interacting with the clients and able to communicate what they were doing.

There are developers that they’ll encounter a problem and they’ll sit and write an email or a message or not do anything, and there are developers that will pick up the phone and have a conversation and try to work something out and be proactive on the communication front. I think those were the guys that kind of naturally became leaders in the development team.

I think that it was a bit of self-selection there as well. You put a bunch of developers together and somebody will generally come up as the lead and start organising people and taking the lead on stand-ups and things like that.

Purpose – the secret to building high performance teams

Jon Windust: 

Let’s move onto the subject of building high performing groups within the organisation. You are a high performing company and you’ve grown incredibly fast. Tell us about how you actually have gone about building those high performing groups.

Eytan Lenko: 

Yes, I think there are a few things. Obviously the key thing is really aligning everybody so they all understand where you’re going. I think any company, particularly a company that’s growing fast, obviously is going to have humps.

There are points of high pressure and points where it’s a bit more relaxed but to get people over the humps and to keep morale up and have everyone do it with good spirits, it’s really important they understand why, why they’re being asked to push hard and what the purpose is. Is it really just about this one project and this one client or is it about a bigger vision?

Jon Windust: 

Is there a bigger vision?

Eytan Lenko: 

When we were a smaller company, it was pretty easy. Because the directors were visible, you could talk to them, you could have lunch with them [and talk about the vision].

Then I think last year, we started getting a lot of feedback from the team that they were losing sight of what that vision was and why they were being asked to go in a particular way. Or people might disagree with why we were doing one project and not another project. They didn’t see how it all fitted together.

So we did a piece of work where we got everyone’s input around building a new vision for the company. I guess the directors had to kind of think do we do a big seminar and say, “This is Outware’s vision that we’ve come up with and these are the words and that’s what it is?”

We’ve got a very smart team of people and we just knew that we had to get buy-in from everyone. Everyone had to input into the vision.

Then the flipside of that was, when we started that process and we started with a survey, asking people questions about the way they think about the company and where they think it could go, there was feedback along the lines of “Don’t you guys know where we’re going? Why are you asking us?”

So it was finding that mix between this is the area we want to play in the market that we’re playing in but within that we’ll give you guys the freedom to think about where we want to go and why we want to do it. Obviously that was kind of a to and fro conversation.

How does agile software development works and how is it guiding best practice performance management?

Eytan Lenko: 

Software historically has been quite a messy business because you say, “I’m going to do this piece of work in six months,” and then six months later you discover you’re only half way through it, all of your assumptions are wrong and everyone’s upset and it’s a big mess.

I guess Agile and Scrum came out of a desire to make that whole process a lot more transparent and a lot more trackable, and also giving a lot more flexibility to kind of change path along the way. I think the idea is basically that you break the requirements of the project down into as small a chunk as possible – that’s called a story, and then you gather together a bunch of stories into a two week period of work that’s called a sprint or an iteration, and then your see how far they get through that. Then after a few sprints, you get a good idea of how many stories you can complete.

Each story has a level of complexity, is given a number of points, and you add those number of points up and you get a velocity for your team. What that means is that every two weeks you’ve got a check point, you do a showcase where you can show, “This is our progress,” because each story should be, from a user’s perspective, a functionally complete piece of work. You should be able to show that you’ve gone from there to there and get the feedback. At that stage if the product owners or the stakeholders aren’t happy they’ve got the opportunity to change direction a little bit going forward.

What that means for developers and feedback is that every day they’re kind of standing together, they’re talking about the work they’re going to do that day every two weeks, they’re having a review of their progress. You’re getting a constant feedback loop of how you’re going. You can see if one person’s kind of struggling with their stories and nobody else is, there’s a bit of feedback there about that person and how they’re facing the project. If you’ve got someone that’s kind of vocal and talking at stand-ups and getting really passionate about it, you’re getting a bit of feedback there about what they enjoy.

Jon Windust: 

It really narrows that whole loop. If I think of performance … if you think of how you can develop performance, there are really two key ingredients, I think. One is the expectations of setting out the expectations in the first place, and then that feedback mechanism or feedback loop, and that sort of continuous cycle.

Scrum sort of seems to be an almost perfect example of that because you’ve got the expectations come in the form of a story, in the form of a user’s story, that’s given to the developers so they know exactly what the expectations are, it’s a really well written expectation, and then everyday they get that feedback loop and every fortnight at the end of the sprint, they have the retrospectives to talk about process improvements and maybe even personal improvements.

What’s next for Outware?

Jon Windust:

It sounds like you’ve covered a lot of bases, in particular HR bases, in those first five years. What’s the next challenge for you?

Eytan Lenko: 

A few challenges now. We’re expanding our services to include strategy. That’s going to bring its own HR challenges as we kind of build up a new highly skilled team.

We’re also expanding geographically. We just recently opened an office in Sydney. We have a GM in Sydney that’s starting up. I think in terms of HR, one of our key challenges is going to make sure that our culture is represented in the new office that builds up in Sydney, and that the values and the way that they do things has a similar feel to the way it’s done in Melbourne. Obviously they’re kind of free to do stuff differently where it fits but we really want it to be a really good culture for the organisation.

Jon Windust: 

Look, it’s been a great discussion. I look forward to hearing in a year’s time how the business is growing.

Eytan Lenko: 

Great, cheers. Thanks for having me.

Jon Windust: 

Thanks Eytan.

This transcript has been edited slightly for readability.

Jon Windust

Jon Windust is the CEO at Cognology – Talent management software for the future of work. Over 250 Australian businesses use Cognology to power cutting-edge talent strategy. You can follow Jon on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Talent Management Talk #4 – The CEO perspective on talent management (featuring Graeme Strange)

In this edition of Talent Management Talk I’m joined by Graeme Strange. Graeme is Managing Director at Readify, a large and fast growing Australian software services company.

I was excited to get Graeme on Talent Management Talk to explore the CEO perspective on talent management. The interview doesn’t disappoint, with some great insights from Graeme on:

  • What the CEO is really looking for from HR
  • How Graeme recruits and manages his leadership team
  • How Readify recruits technical staff
  • How you drive your own development as a CEO

Toward the end of the discussion we also dive into some fascinating thinking about organisational culture and the importance of storytelling. If you’d like to jump straight there, you can find that discussion at 8:32 in the video below.

You can watch the full 10-minute discussion or read the transcript below.

Jon Windust:

Welcome to Talent Management Talk. I’m here today with Graeme Strange who is the Managing Director of Readify, a multi-award-winning, global-award-winning software services company. Welcome Graeme.

Graeme Strange:

Thank you.

Jon Windust:

I think we’ve got something really special to offer our viewers here today as HR people. And that is to hear from a CEO just exactly what they think about HR and how they see HR fitting into the organisation.

What does the CEO want from the HR group?

Jon Windust:

What does the CEO want from the HR group?

Graeme Strange:

Our people and culture area is extremely important to us because there are times, particularly in high growth organisation that you need to accelerate your hiring process.

You’re so reliant on your people and culture to turn their attention to hiring, and then be able to turn their attention back to retention. Then the dial goes back to hiring again. It’s one of those things that goes through waves.

You’ve got a business pipeline and all of a sudden you might have won a whole bunch of new work. The message goes over to people and culture very rapidly to say, “Right, we need you to fire up your hiring engine”.

Equally, turnover in professional services is fairly high. So the other really important aspect of people and culture for us is to keep that churn rate down. To make sure people are happy, that they are not only performing well but they’re happily performing well.

Jon Windust:

Yes, it seems to me like you see HR as a really key determinant of the organisation’s success?

Graeme Strange:

Absolutely. It’s fundamental to our success.

Jon Windust:

Which will be good news to a lot of our viewers out there.

How does Readify recruit technical staff?

Graeme Strange:

We’re a technology firm. We have the advantage of being able to say, “You know what, let’s build some really smart technology to start filtering the people as they come in and apply for work with us.”

Jon Windust:

Right.

Graeme Strange:

We have this great little system called Knock Knock, and when you come onto our website to apply for a job, you have to hit Knock Knock first.

What Knock Knock does is basically asks a whole bunch of technical questions – we’re talking about the technical people here – to determine that you actually know what you’re talking about.  Because we’re trying to hire just the very, very best in the industry, that’s a high bar to get over. They’re code puzzles and questions that you should know the answer to.

The next step being that you will go on to a technical interview if you get through. We set the bar for Knock Knock, that if people don’t get over 75% they typically don’t go on to the next phase. But we could raise that bar to 90%.

We typically never drop that bar so it’s a great early filtering process. There’s a whole bunch of things that we want to do with that system but it effectively means that your people and culture area is not going to have to deal with 600 resumes.

Jon Windust:

You’ve automated a lot of that process.

Graeme Strange:

The filtering process is automated, yes.

How does the CEO of Readify recruit his leadership team?

Jon Windust:

We’ve got the advantage of having the Managing Director here, so let’s talk about the senior leadership group.

What involvement do you have in the recruitment of that group, and how do you go about sourcing great candidates for that leadership group?

Graeme Strange:

Clearly I have a lot of involvement in that. That’s not something you can actually take a hands-off approach to.

We do tap into our network, so people we know and therefore are in the industry. We do use recruitment firms as well to try and get to those people we don’t know or don’t necessarily know. But it’s a pretty involved process.

Because we’re in a high-growth business, we’ve had double digit growth for the last eight years, which means that you’ve got to hire someone at a level above where you are today.

Saying I want an executive for exactly where we are today means that they’re on the same development curve as the company. If you hire above, you’re getting better value from them as you’re growing as an organisation as well.

Jon Windust:

Yes.

Graeme Strange:

So it’s really important that we hire people that are more experienced than probably what we believe we might need at the time. And that are capable of growing as the business grows because otherwise they’ll get left behind.

The CEO perspective on managing a leadership team

Graeme Strange:

I would like to think that in every executive team member that I have, they are better at their job than I’ll ever be at their job.

I look at myself as becoming more and more of a generalist and hiring people that are far, far smarter than me. I think that’s a great way to hire, and then you can just trust them.

Jon Windust:

It’s a peculiar thing about being a CEO. It’s a strange thing having everyone else in your leadership team actually smarter than you are or better at what they do.

Graeme Strange:

I like that. It gives me a lot of confidence.

Jon Windust:

Yes, and I’ve heard someone say that you actually should, as a CEO, feel like you’re the dumbest person in the room!

Graeme Strange:

Yes. Your value then is bringing the view of the entire company to the table.

So you’re getting a picture across the entire organisation. Whilst your executives are looking at things through a sales lens or a people and culture lens or a marketing lens or a finance lens, each in their own right very important parts of the business.

How do you develop as a CEO?

Jon Windust:

When you get to that Managing Director or CEO role, there is no longer anyone above you to actually look at and learn from. How do you actually go about developing yourself?

Graeme Strange:

Look outside. Mentorship is still a really important part but you’re looking outside the organisation.

Jon Windust:

Right.

Graeme Strange:

So maybe looking within the industry at someone that you’ve seen be successful or go where you’d like to take your career already.

Connecting with those sorts of people, that’s really important. In fact, I almost think it’s better to have a mentor outside the organisation.

Jon Windust:

Right.

Graeme Strange:

I mean people on the board or board of directors that you can bounce ideas off, that’s actually important as well for them to help you.

Jon Windust:

It’s not quite a mentorship relationship is it with the board?

Graeme Strange:

No, it’s not at that stage. It could still be a development thing but yes, the relationship is different to a mentor for sure.

Jon Windust:

Yes. Okay, great.

Graeme Strange:

And they change. The reality is that you can find someone that you really like and they’re a fantastic mentor to you and that relationship might last for a few years – but there’s also a point where they might not be the person for you anymore. You might need something else in order to develop further.

Where does culture come from?

Jon Windust:

I definitely think culture comes largely from the CEO. It’s amazing how much influence the CEO and the type of CEO that they are has over the organisation.

Tell me about Readify and how your culture has developed?

Graeme Strange:

I sort of agree and disagree. The bit I disagree with is that I think it comes from the wider leadership group, so not just the executive. They definitely do set a tone for a culture. I think that is very true.

There’s a guy called Stan Slap wrote a book called I Left My Heart in Conference Room B. It’s a book on leadership and there’s a passage in there where he talks about leadership culture. Without explaining the whole thing, he talks about how culture is set from the staff telling stories about the leadership.

If you see the relationship between culture and the stories they tell, then it’s your behaviours at the leadership level that are important. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. Because what you say… people can go, “Yeah, yeah, a bit like a mission statement, a bit like a value statement but do you live the values? Do you really embrace the mission?” If you’re not seen to be actually living it and doing it, then it lacks credibility.

What Stan says in his book is pretty much, as a leadership group, you’ll never hear any of those stories. They will be telling stories about you and what you’ve done but they won’t be telling you.

So even at the office Christmas party with photos of them that they don’t want to get around in one hand ,and a pay rise in the other, and cornered at the back of the car park, they will not give up those stories to you. So you’ll never actually know them but you’ll feel them come from the staff.

Jon Windust:

All right, look, I think we’ll finish off there today Graeme. Thank you very much for your time.

Graeme Strange:

Thank you for having me.

This transcript has been edited slightly for readability

Jon Windust

Jon Windust is the CEO at Cognology – Talent management software for the future of work. Over 250 Australian businesses use Cognology to power cutting-edge talent strategy. You can follow Jon on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Talent Management Talk #3 – Talent management in the NFP sector (featuring Tania Hannath)

In this week’s Talent Management Talk I’m joined by Tania Hannath – Director at People Axis. Tania has worked across both not-for-profit and for-profit companies. So she’s perfectly placed to compare different approaches in talent and performance management in the two sectors.

Tania’s extensive experience and strong opinions made for a great discussion around culture and behaviours, 360 feedback, setting goals and performance reviews. She’s also recently done some really interesting work in performance management for boards. We dive into that topic at 7 minutes 30 seconds.

Watch our 10-minute discussion or read the transcript below. If this is an area you have experience in or you have questions about, let me know via the comments or on Twitter; @cognology

Talent Management talk

 

Jon:
Hey everybody and welcome to Talent Management Talk. I’m Jon Windust, the CEO of Cognology, and I’m here today with Tania Hannath who is an expert HR consultant and who also happens to do a lot of work in the not-for-profit space.

Culture and behaviours in not-for-profit organisations

This is going to be really interesting because… culture: how do you actually build that culture? How do you start to instil that in the organisation?

Tania:
We know that there are many things that impact culture. For me, two of the greatest levers are leadership – the quality of leadership – and then also your performance management system. But ultimately where you want to start is to define what does this culture look like?

So if I am working in this organisation, what does it feel like? What does it look like? When people are working at their best with colleagues. When they’re working at their best with the people we are servicing. What are they doing? What are their key behaviours? And defining those.

Jon:
So one of the first things you’re doing is creating that set of behaviours, defining that set of behaviours? To me, one of the things I find really useful about behaviours and one of the reasons I think they’re such a good tool. Apart from being a very clear description of an expectation, they can be used by managers as a tool in everyday conversation or in a one-on-one with a team member. Yes, I think they’re really critical as a tool for leaders to help them in managing their staff.

Tania:
Very much so Jon. The other thing is that people are joining these not-for-profits because they’re passionate about the purpose and mission. So it’s fundamental that the organisation helps them to see how that culture fits the purpose and the mission. But also how the work that they do and their department does, fits that culture and the mission. Because if they can’t see that… They’re not joining for the money! They don’t have the short-term and the long-term incentive benefits that you have in the for-profit world.

They’re joining really for that purpose of the organisation. And when they can’t see how they contribute and how the organisation is inwardly replicating what it’s doing externally, from a cultural perspective, they are disillusioned far quicker than in a for-profit world.

Jon:
Okay, that’s really interesting.

How to deliver 360 feedback in NFPs

Can we talk a little bit about 360? You’ve mentioned 360-degree feedback and I’m just sort of wondering, is there something about 360-degree feedback in the not-for-profit world that’s different to the for-profit world? It sort of seems that it might be a more difficult thing to implement in the not-for-profit world or am I sort of missing something there?

Tania:
I think there is a barrier. I don’t know that the not-for-profit world sees it but there is a barrier around “we are different, we have a very philanthropic purpose.” If it’s a faith-based not-for-profit: “we don’t want some standard 360,” or: “we need to really customise because we are so unique.” Well, we have many for-profit clients who also tell us, “We are very different from other organisations,” but definitely I think where we start to get into faith-based not-for-profits and the whole philanthropic aspect of not-for-profits, they see themselves as very different.

So 360’s, in particular the Cognology tool, is highly customisable. So with those clients, I can have that conversation to say, “You can help me design these questions,” or “you have a go at the questions you want and I’ll look at them and make sure they’re behaviourable based and simple and written in verbs and things that are rateable.” I think once we get over that hurdle…

I mean the other thing I think sometimes, because we’ve got people in not-for-profit space who are very relational, the feedback is sometimes nicer… than in the for-profit [world], so maybe not always as honest!

The importance of setting goals

Jon:
What do you think about the argument that some people use: “Well, goals, they’re just too difficult and you shouldn’t set them in the first place.”

Tania:
It’s a total copout!

Jon:
Okay. That’s that!

Tania:
I mean accountability! It’s probably one of the things that frustrates me: “We want more participation. We want more engagement. We want more consultation in organisations” – but we won’t be accountable.

Jon:
Yes.

Tania:
Those two things go hand-in-hand.

Jon:
The other thing that some people might miss about goals, one of the benefits of them, is being able to give people a lot more autonomy in their roles. Essentially what you’re doing through the goal is giving them accountability, and that then allows you to give those people a lot more autonomy in their roles. It should lead to a much happier work place if people have got more control over how they do things.

How performance reviews differ in NFPs

The other thing that interests me here is that generally around review time every year, here in Australia being July/August, you start to see articles calling for the end of the performance review. I find this really curious because here you are saying, “This is one of the key tools that you’re using to improve accountability and culture in not-for-profit organisations,” what are you doing right that other people are missing?

Tania:
It would be interesting to actually know or have a look at those performance reviews that those writers are talking about Jon, and we don’t have perhaps an insight into that. I’m saying that because a really close friend of mine the other day, we were sitting having a coffee, and she said, “Oh, I’ve got my performance review in a few hours. I thought you’d be interested to have a look.” She gave it to me because she knows the work that I do in organisations, and it was a tick-box exercise.

Jon:
Oh, ouch.

Tania:
I looked at her and said, “But I know that you have different portfolios and different responsibilities, so how [is that] reflect[ed] in this document and where are you going to talk about what you’ve achieved?” I looked at my friend and I know what she does and I know how much she gives to her organisation and I looked at this document and there was a big disconnect.

Jon:
Yes.

Tania:
So if those writers are talking about those processes, they are not beneficial. They may be a HR process where you can tick it off from a risk and a compliance perspective but I’m not convinced that they add to that.

So [I’m] obviously a big advocate for tailoring questions. If we’re going to ask questions on behaviours and culture and values – that those are   tailored, they have been co-designed, that there’s communication around those in the organisation and they sit in the review.

Jon:
Yes, and you do something with the end results.

Tania:
Yes.

Can 360 feedback work for boards?

Jon:
So tell me about this 360 feedback for boards. That just seems… I mean board performance, we don’t normally think about it do we? And actually managing the performance of boards. How do you actually do that?

Tania:
For me it’s also been very exciting because for… let’s just call it 20 (it’s more) but for 20 years working in organisations, in terms of performance management and 360, through the CEO and then to the top of that organisation chart which is the board itself.

It’s pretty exciting to see the whole gamut of that organisation embrace these things because the paradox has often been (and here I’m talking about boards generally) that we’re going to hold the executive management accountable. We’re going to assess their performance but we are quite quiet about what we have been doing.

Jon:
But often you can get really massive issues with boards, can’t you?

Tania:
Yes. So post the GFC, we do see a whole lot of movement around requirements of boards. Out of that GFC, issues in terms of corporate governance, issues around executive remuneration.

The ASX, in terms of their governance recommendations and also principles – basically in July 2014 have put out some additional principles. And one of those first principles is around wanting (so we’re talking about ASX boards) to actually report on how they’re evaluating their boards…

Jon:
Right.

Tania:
And the board, the individuals, the directors on the board, and also the board subcommittees. So that gives you a flavour for what is happening in the for-profit space and I think it’s a great opportunity in the not-for-profit space, given the things that we’ve talked about, given the money that’s been entrusted by donors, given the money that’s been given by government to this particular sector, there is a great opportunity for the sector to build stronger relationships with these donors. To show greater transparency by saying, “Look, this is one of the ways in which we do good governance. We are prepared to evaluate ourselves as individuals and the work we’re doing, and our subcommittees and the board as a whole.”

Jon:
Alright, look, it’s been an absolutely fascinating discussion. I really thank you for sharing your expertise with us today. Thanks.

Tania:
Thank you.

Does talent management drive share price performance?

Why investors should care about talent management

Here at Cognology we love data that supports the importance of great people management. Today we’ve got some particularly interesting data from Glassdoor that all managers (and investors) should pay close attention to.
We’ve dug into Glassdoor data to understand the impact of employee happiness and satisfaction on share price performance.

If you’re not familiar with Glassdoor

Glassdoor is a website where employees and former employees anonymously review companies and their management. The data and reviews are then made publically available.
Here we’re using Commonwealth Bank as an example:

CBA Ratings and Trends chart

As you can see, it’s gives a quick feel for what it’s really like to work at the company on a number of measures.

But deeper than just employee happiness, Glassdoor is also a pretty good indicator of management capability. As we showed in our recent piece on Management Capability, Glassdoor ratings sit broadly in line with the Australian Institute of Management’s capability index.

What do these ratings say about Australia’s largest companies?

At an aggregate level, every company gets a rating out of five stars. We collected these Glassdoor ratings for the ASX100. You can see the results below:

Glassdoor ratings chart

Note that we’re only including companies with reviews on Glassdoor (which is why there’s 68 companies listed here instead of 100). Due to size or industry, some companies don’t have enough ratings to show data.

As you can see above, most companies tend to cluster somewhere between a rating of 3 and 4.

What’s particularly interesting here are the seven Australian companies that have scored ratings of 4 and above. As you can see from the chart, it’s quite rare to achieve a rating at this level. For comparison, some of the international companies with ratings above 4 include:

What has this got to do with share price performance?

One of the big questions about Glassdoor is always “does the rating really mean anything?”. Anonymous reviews sound awfully like they could be gamed by a company that wanted a quick ratings boost. Or just as easily destroyed by a particularly bitter ex-employee.

So, in aggregate, do these ratings actually tell us anything meaningful about the companies listed?

Perhaps the most impartial way to look at overall corporate performance is the share price. There’s a lot of nuances that share market misses – but there’s no disagreement that it’s a very clear public indicator of performance that all stakeholders care about.

So how does aggregate share price performance look when we chart against Glassdoor ratings:

Glassdoor ratings chart

 

It’s clear that the past 12 months has seen outperformance by those companies with a glassdoor rating of 4 or above. Just to highlight, these companies with employee reviews averaging above 4 are:

  • CSR
  • Fortescue Metals
  • Toll Holdings
  • Wesfarmers
  • Seek
  • Ramsay Health
  • Orora

Whilst it’s easy to make the argument that employee engagement and management capability is causing share price outperformance, let’s not get too carried away and start the “Glassdoor ratings >4 hedge fund” (although we did very briefly consider it before publishing this article).

To be very clear, I’ve always believed that there’s a relationship between great talent management and company value. But before we say this is definitive proof of the huge value of talent management, there’s more research required. Do companies that are achieving stronger share-price growth just have happier employees? It is possible that the causation works in the other direction?

In any case, it’s fascinating data that requires more attention and thought. It’s safe to say you should expect more questions from investor relations about your talent management strategy in the near future. 

Please note: Clearly, this isn’t investment advice. And for the sake of full disclosure, nobody involved in the publication of this article holds shares in any of the outperformers referenced.

What does a crisis in MIDDLE management mean for TALENT management?

Middle management matters

Middle managers have it tough. They’re facing an environment with increasing workloads and constrained resources. The Australian Institute of Management (AIM) understands the challenges. They recently released a discussion paper called Engaging Middle Managers For Positive Organisational Change.

As part of this report, AIM asked senior managers how critical middle management are to well-run organisations:

  • 89.3% of senior managers agree that middle managers are the linchpin to effectively communicate the needs of senior management to their teams. 
  • 92.7% of senior managers agree empowering middle managers is key to effective implementation of organizational change.

For the majority of Australian executives, there’s no doubt about the critical role of middle management for communication and driving organizational change.

The expectation gap for middle management is getting wider

What’s most interesting from a talent management perspective in this report is the gap between the perceived and actual performance of middle management:

  • 64% of senior managers rate the skills of middle management as “below average”. 
  • However, only 27% of middle managers think middle management is underperforming.

You don’t need to be a talent management expert to understand the issue here! Middle managers are failing to meet the expectations of senior management, and they don’t even know it.

Talent and performance management done well is all about making sure that everyone’s on the same page. Everyone knows whether they’re on track and what success means. From this data, it’s evident that there’s a major expectation gap. Middle management and senior management clearly have very different ideas about what is expected from middle management.

Understanding the expectation gap: Middle managers think they need more soft skills, everyone else thinks otherwise.

This chart shows the different perceptions around the skill gaps for middle managers. You’ll notice middle managers (light blue) place more emphasis on soft skills, whilst both senior management (red) and direct reports (dark blue) emphasize technical skills:

Expectation gap chart

These charts make the expectation gap very clear. Middle managers are focusing on soft skills, and that’s reflected in how they are perceived by both managers and their direct reports.

Whether this skill mix is right or wrong, it’s easy to see how these different perspectives lead to disaster when it comes to performance review time:

  • Middle management are being evaluated on the competencies that senior management and their reports think they SHOULD have.
  • Middle management are evaluating their own performance based on the competencies that they think they SHOULD have.
  • But because these competencies are unclear, there’s a major gap between perceived and actual performance.

Setting clear expectations and objectives are critical for all employees (including middle managers)

The aim of great talent management is always to minimise the expectation gap. If you’re doing performance management well you should never have the scenario where an employee thinks they’ve done great work, only to be told otherwise in a 6 monthly review.

Everyone from direct reports to the C-suite should read AIM’s discussion paper, it articulates why it’s so critical to set clear expectations and objectives for everyone in the organization. Everyone benefits when the scoreboard is visible and plain to see.

Have you read the discussion paper yet? Have anything you’d like to add? You can reach me on Twitter @cognology or jump on the comments below.

Is technology reshaping the way we work?

Part 3 of our data driven investigation into 2014’s real talent trends

Recap: We’re continuing our data driven look into the real talent trends of 2014

Today we’re continuing our data driven look into the talent trends of 2014.

To recap on how we’re doing this, each week Indeed collects millions of job ads from sites across the web. And the team is kind enough to make all of this data publicly available and searchable. This means we can look at how frequently certain terms are occurring in millions of job ads, all the way back to 2005. It’s fascinating, and you should have a play with the tool at http://www.indeed.com/jobtrends.

Sitting in a workplace today, it’s easy to feel how technology is reshaping the way work gets done. So today we wanted to have a look at some of the big tech trends, to see if the impact on the workplace is as significant as the press and blogosphere makes out.

How is technology reshaping the way we work?

Again, there’s been a lot written on this topic recently. Here’s just a couple of pieces that you might have read over 2014:

Out of these, we’ve picked the four trends we were seeing again and again. In no particular order, we’re diving into:

  • Social media
  • Social (collaborative tech)
  • Cloud
  • Mobile

Social media

Clearly social media is no passing fad. It’s seen huge growth in hiring over the past ten years. But this is still less than 1% of all jobs, and at present these numbers are unlikely to represent much other than people hired into marketing roles. It will be interesting to see how “Social Media” in hiring evolves over the coming 5-10 years – will we see a stage where social media capability is a broader job requirement?

Social media

Social

Social (capturing collaborative tech) is potentially the bigger trend here, which continues to grow. It’s interesting how Social has seen a sustained pick up across 2014, whilst Social Media has plateaued.

Social

Cloud

Again, “Cloud” is a trend that’s seen major growth over the past five years. “Cloud” has come from nowhere to feature in nearly 1% of all job adverts across 2012 – 2014. The scale of growth shows the level of investment that businesses have made in getting the workforce cloud enabled.

HR Cloud

Mobile

Mobile is another big trend that’s really reshaping the way that we work. But similar to the “Cloud” it hasn’t been a growth area for 2014 (doing major growth at an earlier stage). If anything mobile is now starting to drop off as a hiring trend, as companies are reaching full capability.

Mobile

So, how is technology reshaping the workforce?

Cloud, mobile and social media have all been huge growth trends in reshaping the workplace. But as this hiring data makes clear, they haven’t been the tech trends of 2014. All three terms have plateaued or fallen away slightly over the course of the year.

What does this mean? As these charts make clear, these technologies have seen explosive growth over the past five years. And there’s still significant hiring happening – especially when you compare the current numbers to 10 years ago. But explosive and ongoing growth in the field may have slowed. So it’s possible that businesses are bedding down current efforts and making sure they have the right strategies in place to go forward (now that they’re through initial deployment).

The only place we’ve really seen ongoing growth over 2014 is social technology. As I wrote about here, there’s really good reasons to invest and integrate social and collaborative tech. It’s great to see that businesses are starting to recognise this return and invest appropriately.

Interested in the real talent management trends of 2014? Don’t miss the other parts of this series…

If you loved these talent insights, there’s plenty more in this series:

  1. Millennials are changing the way we work (part 1)
  2. HR is about to be taken over by data/finance (part 2)
  3. Technology is reshaping the way we work (part 3)
  4. Holacracy is set to make managers obsolete (part 4, coming tomorrow!)

If you’ve got interesting thoughts about what this article means for the future of work, I’d love to continue the conversation on Twitter. Tweet and follow @cognology.

Is HR about to be taken over by the CFO?

Part 2 of our data driven investigation into the talent trends of 2014

Recap: We’re using job hiring data to understand the real talent trends of 2014

Today we’re continuing our data driven look into the current state of talent.

As a quick refresher, we’re using the publicly searchable data from Indeed as a basis for this investigation. Because Indeed aggregate millions of job posts from across the web, it’s a great source for understanding what’s really happening in the workforce.

Today we’re going to shift the lens back in, and look directly at what’s really changing in HR.

Is HR is about to be taken over by data/finance?

If you’re a regular reader of the business press, I’m sure you’ve read plenty of articles suggesting that HR is about to be made obsolete. No one seems to agree on who’s about to take over the function, but data analysts and the CFO get mentioned regularly.

Here’s some of the typical press/blog articles you might have read over the past year:

Today we’re using hiring data to see if this takeover is really playing out. Are companies really recruiting super analysts to take over HR? We’re going to find out by having a look at some of the following terms across job adverts:

  • HR & Data
  • HR & Big Data
  • HR & Analytics
  • HR & Finance

But before we jump into that level of detail, let’s set the scene with a general look at the recruiting landscape for HR, analytics, data and finance.

Data

I find it interesting that “Data” has been falling away over the past three years in job adverts. This is about the same timeframe the business press started making proclamations like “data is the new oil”

Data

Big Data

And maybe some of this falloff in “Data” can be explained just through buzzword substitution. Hiring for “Big Data” seems to have picked up in late 2011/early 2012, at the time that “Data” started to drop away.

Big Data

Analytics

At the same time “Analytics” shows on-going growth over the past 10 years, although an interesting downtrend over 2014.

Analytics

Finance

Hiring for “Finance” has shown a constant and sustained downtrend over the past 10 years. I find it quite incredible that “HR” seems to be a better economic barometer than finance (compare the following two charts).

Finance

HR

Based on this chart alone, it’s amazing how correlated HR jobs are with the general economy.

HR

HR & Data

Adding “HR” and “Data” gives us an interesting picture on the data revolution in the HR profession. It’s clear that there is real growth here that doesn’t exist in the profession as a whole. But the press are 5 years too late in recognising this as a trend. Over 2013 and 2014 we’ve seen “HR” and “Data” fall in relative frequency.

HR Data

HR & Big Data

You can see that “HR”and “Big Data” is very spikey (given the very low data volumes). However it’s clear that there was a pickup at the same time as “Big Data” in general. This seems to be a case of the business media really pushing a term to the forefront of the hiring agenda.

HR Big Data

HR & Analytics

“HR” & “Analytics” has seen sustained growth over the ten-year period (but remember that this is coming off a low base. This is definitely a term to watch.

HR Analytics

HR & Finance

This is an interesting graph with some spikes on serious volume – I’m sure there are some interesting factors driving the spikes (I’d love you to jump into the comments if you have thoughts about what they represent).

HR Finance

So, is HR about to be taken over?

Whilst there’s some evidence of growth in “HR” & “Analytics” and “HR” & “Big Data”, these trends are small scale and relatively early in their lifecycle.

Relative to HR as a profession (c.3% of all job advertisements) these trends are small scale – with about 1 in 50 HR job advertisements currently featuring “Analytics” and about 1 in 150 HR job adverts featuring “Big Data”. So it’s fair to say we’re not at the stage of a massive takeover just yet. But there are clearly things happening over the medium term – which makes this an interesting trend to watch.

Interested in the real talent management trends of 2014? Don’t miss the other parts of this series…

If you loved these talent trend insights, there’s plenty more in this series:

  1. Millennials are changing the way we work (part 1)
  2. HR is about to be taken over by data/finance (part 2)
  3. Technology is reshaping the way we work (part 3, coming tomorrow)
  4. Holacracy is set to make managers obsolete (part 4, coming Friday)

And of course, I’d always love to continue the discussion on Twitter. Tweet @cognology with your take on this investigation and any other key trends you’d like us to look at.

Millennials and the future workplace: Launching Talent Management Talk

I’m really excited to launch Talent Management Talk – a new regular video chat, where we’re aiming to bring together some of the best thinkers in talent management for the future of work.

This week I was delighted to chat about millennials and the future of work with Chelsea Forster, Head of Human Resources for The Foundation for Young Australians and Steve Pell, entrepreneur and founder of Intrascope Analytics.

The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) is an amazing, progressive workplace, utilising many workplace practices that many would still just consider theory. FYA has created a flexible workplace, with a focus on personal development rather than tenure. As we talk about in this (rather animated) discussion FYA and aims for its employees to get as much out of FYA as the organization gets out of its employees.

Steve also brings an interesting perspective, given his work with workplace data (as well as being a millennial). As Steve talks about in this chat a number of times –  I agree that it’s important we don’t confuse cause and effect when thinking about millennials and the workplace.

The workplace is changing rapidly at the same time as millennials are becoming a dominant force in the workforce. But as I wrote about here, that doesn’t mean millennials are always the cause of these changes.

You can watch the video highlights and see the full transcript below. I’d love you to join the conversation on millennials at work and leadership in the next generation on Twitter using @cognology.

The full transcript follows below:

Jon Windust:
Hey everybody and welcome to Talent Management Talk. I’m Jon Windust, the CEO of Cognology. I’m honoured to have here with me today, Chelsea Forster, who is the Head of Human Resources for The Foundation for Young Australians and Steve Pell, entrepreneur and founder of Intrascope. Today we are going to be talking about millennials in the changing workplace, and what better place to start than by talking with Chelsea who is from The Foundation for Young Australians. Chelsea, can you tell us who the foundation is and what you do?

Chelsea Forster:
Sure. The Foundation for Young Australians is the only independent, national, not for profit foundation for young Australians. We talk to all young Australians, no matter where they are from or who they are, and talk to them about their future in Australia and help them on that path.

Jon Windust:
Right, okay. As the head of human resources for the Foundation of Young Australians, I’m guessing you’re dealing with millennials every day?

Chelsea Forster:
Yes, true, good assumption.

Jon Windust:
All right. There are some crazy things out there that you hear about millennials these days. There are some insane myths. You would think that, “Henny Penny, the sky is going to fall in.” What are some of the crazy myths that you guys are hearing about millennials?

Chelsea Forster:
Well, one of the ones that I hear mostly is that they don’t want to work as hard as perhaps previous generations wanted to, which I know is a complete myth, and that they left the commitment to the workforce that perhaps generations before have had.

Jon Windust:
Right. What about you Steve, what are you hearing?

Steve Pell:
My take on this is that we are seeing the workplace change very, very fast at the moment through technology, through the economic environment, through everything else and a lot of the changes that are just external are then pushed down onto millennials. Like, “the millennials want additional flexibility”, “the millennials have no commitment.” Again, I think it’s just kind of universal truths that we’re kind of attributing down.

Jon Windust:
Yes and the data doesn’t bear it out does it? We pulled out some stats recently that actually show that tenure isn’t actually going down, people are actually staying in their roles, if anything a little bit longer than what they used to.

Chelsea Forster:
Interestingly last year PWC ran a report called Next Gen and they really looked at what millennials as a generation want and what the other generations want, and flexibility in the work force was something that both generations wanted equally. Everybody is embracing the new technology. Everybody is embracing this opportunity to be more flexible. It’s not just the younger generation. I agree with you, it’s more of a timing thing.

Steve Pell:
Technology has made it viable, now millennials are entering the workforce, people are connecting the two, but it’s just not there.

Jon Windust:
Why do you guys reckon millennials are such a hot topic right now?

Chelsea Forster:
Well, in my opinion millennials are a hot topic because we have a decreasing workforce in Australia and these are the guys that are going to be running our work force. So from the economy perspective we need millennials to be engaged, we need them to be equipped with the skills, we need them to be able to grow our economy as a country; so it’s incredibly important.

Jon Windust:
I also noticed as well that there were some stats recently about the workforce expectations in about 2025-2030. It was going to be a 20% shortage of people for those roles. Even now in the U.S there’s a shortage of skills for the roles that are vacant so if they are having problems with their economy, there are roles there they can’t be filled because there aren’t skilled people to actually fill those roles.

Steve Pell:
My take on this is humans look for simple answers to complex problems, right? Jobs and work is changing so fast and so rapidly that it’s an easy answer to say millennials are the issue when we need to look much, much deeper at motivations and complexity of work. I think it’s innate. We’re always going to see articles and blogs and everything else that try and solve really complex issues in 500 words.

Jon Windust:
I think if you go into a work place, particularly The Foundation for Young Australians, you can sense a sort of different type of culture there. That may or may not be so due to the millennials themselves, or it may be just the culture we’re heading to. But what is the culture like at The Foundation for Young Australians? How is it different to other workplaces that you’ve been in?

Chelsea Forster:
Well, at FYA, we’ve made a deliberate push to create a progressive workplace. We’re trying to emulate what the future of work will look like at FYA. If you want to see a workplace that shows you what other workplaces might look like in five years, then we’d hope to be there now. So what we have provided is an enormous amount of flexibility, a lot of autonomy, a lot of support, a lot of sense of community within the workplace even though they can choose to be there or not to be there.

The attitudes of the people that work at FYA is “work is a thing not a place”. So that makes a big change in how a place feels, so we can all come together but we can work remotely or we can be there collectively as a team. I think that gives it a feel in itself.

Steve Pell:
It’s fascinating that you’re trying to build a workplace that’s five years out from today.

Chelsea Forster:
Yes it’s exciting.

Steve Pell:
It is really exciting, right? Is that a core selling point to people when they are coming and joining the organisation?

Chelsea Forster:
Yes it is and it’s a relatively new thing as part of what we do with young Australians, is to equip them for the workforce of the future.

We’re working with them in programs in their schools, beyond the classroom to what is it going to look like when you get to work? We believe that there are lots of different skills that young Australians need and we’re teaching them in our work. So our workplace, it’s a natural kind of flow that our workplace will be a place they come and see what does it all look like.

Steve Pell:
Do you see that come back as well to benefit older workers?… when you are doing those things for young Australians to equip them for the future of work but it’s also equipping people who have been in the workforce for longer, in ways that they like as well?

Chelsea Forster:
Yes, so people like myself that aren’t millennial. I’m not from the millennial generation, and teaching us how to work with our other generations and the future generations of young Australians. That’s presented a different challenge for our leadership group and for our older workers to understand how to integrate the two. So we’re a bit of a social experiment and you can feel that when you’re at FYA, the energy is different.

Jon Windust:
I kind of get a sense with the millennials that I work with in our team that 1) they love collaboration. But then again I guess we could argue again who doesn’t love collaboration? But I think they’re sort of looking for that in their work and to me they’re also looking for some meaning, some sort of purpose in their work. Steve, as a millennial yourself, what are you looking for out of your work?

Steve Pell:
Look, I think purpose is a really a big part of it for me in terms of people are more and more willing to make trade-offs on compensation for doing things they see as meaningful right now… and then money will come down the track.

That’s really common amongst people I talk to and people I recruit. It’s very easy when I’m recruiting people for businesses that I’m working with, for me to make very clear trade-offs around purpose, meaning and developing your skillset right now for the future.

I think above and beyond everything else, and this is true of me, true of people I recruit in my generation, is development. Having clear development pathways, is the biggest piece.

Jon Windust:
Yes. I like this idea of “The Alliance”, if anyone has heard of this idea called the alliance from Reid Hoffman who was the founder of LinkedIn. He’s got this idea where you create a tour of duty of employment. It’s essentially an agreement with a person that, “We’re going to bring you on board, you are going to stay here for three years and over that time I’m going to lay upfront where we’re going to develop you from a career perspective, and in return for that you give us that set tour of duty.” I love that idea that it’s all agreed to upfront, it’s all transparent and it’s very much a two way street.

Steve Pell:
We were talking about this off camera. It sounds like you guys are actually doing this.

Chelsea Forster:
Yes, we are. Yes, that’s right. We really want to know what you know and how you want to deploy it, and then you can navigate that through our organisation.

We’ll be very clear on our strategic objectives and very clear on the operational objectives for each 12 months. Given that you’ve got the skills and the passion and the will, then go and be part of that team. If that’s where you want to use your skills, go and do it because we know the reality is that in two or three years, you won’t be with us but we want you to be better and more confident and more able than you were when you arrived.

Steve Pell:
I’m really interested in how you sell that to people upfront. Are you having that conversation that says, “You are only going to work here for two years, so let’s talk about how we make that work for you and for us”?

Chelsea Forster:
I think we word it a little bit differently. We talk about our promise to our employees and we have a lot of people on a maximum term contract and a lot ongoing. But we talk about the realities of today’s workforce and so we do acknowledge it upfront, saying, “Well, most people are only in a role for two or three years. What’s that going to look like for you? What do you want this journey to look like?”

Yes, we literally … we really have a thing called ‘Our Promise’ to anyone within FYA, that we will develop them and we will work with them and we will allow them to grow and leave as different, more capable workers.

Jon Windust:
Yes, how are you developing the people when they come on board? What sort of development are you doing with people?

Chelsea Forster:
Most of our development is based around the future work skills. We look at what skills people are going to need in the workforce in the next 20 years and they are the ones that we focus on. So it’s around being enterprising, having a global perspective, appreciating diversity. All of those skills are what we really deploy across our workforce.

Steve Pell:
Interesting, do you performance manage people on those skills as well? Will you assess people’s development?

Chelsea Forster:
Yes, we do, absolutely. We have a very supportive and positive performance management approach because we know that if we tell people that they are not good at things, then without a solution to that, then we will lose them prematurely. It is around if you’re really talented in embracing globalisation in everything that you do, then you can become the person that teaches others about that. People find what they’re good at and what natural skills they have, and then we’ll encourage and showcase it and then they could become the teachers to their co-workers.

Steve Pell:
If I come into your workforce, how do you make me better at embracing globalisation?

Chelsea Forster:
We would work with you for you to have an appreciation of the impact of Asia and the opportunities of being educated and Asia-centric in any sort of business or social enterprise venture that you wanted to have. We have a person that works very closely with Asia and talks about FYA in the region and bringing back those stats of how many people there are. If we think we’ve got a lot of young Australians here, how many young people are there across our region and what does that mean if you put that into your idea or into your career plan?

It’s about exposure. It’s about making people think a little bit bigger and as I often say internally is just lift your eyes and then talk about it again and you’ll have the bigger perspective.

Jon Windust:
It sounds like a very different approach to performance management. It sounds much more in line with something I very much believe in which is agile performance management, a much more sort of forward looking development focused approach.

What are some of the other interesting and sort of different things you’re doing in the performance management and HR sphere?

Chelsea Forster:
I think one of the newer technologies that we’re using and trialling at the moment is Knack which is this idea of gamification and people showing us their skills through playing games and computer games. The games go for three to four minutes and provide us with an overview of what somebody’s talents are and what their Knacks are. Basically it provides some artificial intelligence and each person is then given at the end of the game, 12 to 15 Knacks.

Jon Windust:
Right, it sounds very much like the sort of psychometric approach except it’s sort of a more modern accessible version of that.

Chelsea Forster:
Correct.

Jon Windust:
Have you got any plans or are you already using this in the recruitment process?

Chelsea Forster:
Our plans are to use it in the recruitment process. This really became apparent because we asked everybody in the organisation what their skills were and to upload those onto personal profiles using Cognology. We found it difficult to get people to do that, to tell us what their skills were in their own way. A lot of them didn’t know, they didn’t know whether or not they were proficient in something or whether or not they should say that they are skilled in something.

So when we worked out a way to get them to do it without having kind of tests at work, which would go completely against everything that FYA is, gamification was kind of the obvious answer.

Jon Windust:
Yes, I love that idea. Getting back to recruitment for a moment; gen-Y, what are they looking for in their first role? What are they looking for in a workplace?

Chelsea Forster:
Do you want to answer that? You are one.

Steve Pell:
Look, I think more and more, and again, I don’t think this is an exclusive issue for gen-Ys but they are very much going eyes with your eyes open, this is not a role you’re going into forever. It’s a role that you need to take personal benefit out of. That your perspectives and what you’re after will change over that time, so you’re looking for things that you can grow with.

I still think that with every generation that’s come through the workplace, people going into their first roles still have a lot to learn about themselves right? So I think employers who can help employees learn more about themselves either in that recruiting process or into their first year, two years on the job, really stand to benefit a lot because you get the best out of someone as well.

Chelsea Forster:
Well, I think that from my experience is that we have a workforce that really believes that our role is also to make them thrive. It’s not just about the work but in all aspects of their life. It’s having the flexibility. If you want to do exercise or if you want to study or if you want to volunteer or whatever it is that you want to do as whole person, that we as a work place allow that to happen and allow them to grow and develop in all aspects of their life, not just job function.

Jon Windust:
Yes, lovely.

Steve Pell:
Work-life integration is the term that I use a lot and comes up a lot. I think that selling people on a separation between work and life just doesn’t really work anymore. The more that those two can be integrated and you can be exactly who you are at work in the same way as you are in the rest of your life is what young people want. I think it’s more what everyone wants.

Jon Windust:
I think everyone wants a purpose, right? And part of the purpose is work, it has to be work.

So I think if you can communicate what that purpose is then I think you’re putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you can do that, you’re making it something meaningful.

In our case obviously it’s being able to affect the workplace, what sort of workplace people are actually working in, the culture, what sort of development they get and how well they’ve managed and led.

I think Cognology definitely has a great purpose to offer people as a role. I think if you can communicate that to gen-Y then you’re ahead. Who do you guys think some of the leaders are that when attracting gen-Y and are having some of the great jobs out there for gen-Y?

Steve Pell:
I could come back to the importance in employee brand and that’s the people who are winning this here. In the technology space, Atlassian are destroying it in Australia at the moment in terms of their ability to just be a talent magnet.

Jon Windust:
What is it about technology companies? Why are they talent magnets? Why are they attracting all the gen-Y’s out there and getting all this attention, ending up on the B.R.W top 50 list? What’s driving this?

Steve Pell:
I think it’s exactly the same reasons the same reasons that you guys have picked up on with next five years of work.

Technology companies are the ones who know how to work flexibly because they’ve got the tech to make it happen. They are obviously leading in terms of all those practices that allow that better work-life integration. Because they’ve got better technology to facilitate it, they’re operating four, five years ahead of the rest of the pack.

What are your perceptions there Chelsea?

Chelsea Forster:
Yes, I agree. I think, certainly with technology, that it’s also about the roles of being a developer or a solution architect. You can see that’s it’s a finite piece of work that you actually can do from anywhere, whenever you want to do it.

The type of work that they are doing very much aligns with this: the use of technology, the flexibility, the purpose, using creativity, collaboration working with teams, trial and error, all the things that people want in the workplace, the type of work suits.

Jon Windust:
I’ve got this other idea on this as well. I think it is that because the technology companies are innovating, they have to attract the best talent. So they are forced to find ways to do this. I think that gives the rest of us a big answer on how we actually do this if we look at this guys and how they are attracting the best talent.

Chelsea Forster:
Yes, and they also share, there’s great companies in the states like Treehouse which is an excellent business. They have just removed all managers, so no one has a manager. Basically when you arrive you get a book that says, “You are alone and you either do something or you don’t, and we are all committed to doing something and achieving something, we hope you are too,” and off you go. But they provide all this information, freely accessible to anyone else in the HR profession to wants to run a workforce without management, to see how it works. They write blogs on it so you can listen to weekly updates to where it works and where it doesn’t.

Steve Pell:
It’s an interesting experiment isn’t it?

Chelsea Forster:
Yes.

Jon Windust:
I’ve personally found though that if you give people a lot of autonomy, one of the things I’ve found is that there is a little bit of a pullback point there where people actually do want direction, which I think comes back to leadership as well. So even though people want autonomy, I think they also want leadership as well.

That leads me on to the next point I wanted to talk about with millennials which is that apparently 27% of the leadership workforce now, are actually millennials. How do we actually start preparing these people not just for work, but how do we actually prepare them for leadership roles?

Steve Pell:
How management heavy is FYA? How many managers do you have in your organisation?

Chelsea Forster:
We have really a leadership group of seven people that really is the management of our organisation, so 10% is pretty much where we sit with a solid management structure. Under that, there are support points and groups of people, and so we certainly do have a manager process at the moment and something that we wouldn’t look to alleviate because as you were talking about before, this is often their first or second job. They need some guidance. They need to know what standard practice is and some coaching and development, so that will remain in our workforce.

Jon Windust:
Yes, you must be developing great alumni out there, by the way, the FYA alumni.

Chelsea Forster:
Yes, we are. We call it the FYA family.

Jon Windust:
The FYA family.

Steve Pell:
That’s great, do you bring them back together?

Chelsea Forster:
Yes, we do. We do. They are invited to everything so they remain part of our community on Google plus and so they can keep up to date with what’s happening, which is like our internal notice board. Yes, they remain and can come back and they do, yes.

Steve Pell:
One of my criticisms I guess of Australian employers generally is that they don’t do enough with alumni networks, and that they’re a huge source of value potentially. You’ve got, in some of the big companies, tens of thousands of people working out there who are just treated us they are either on the ship or off, whereas you can kind of be on and off at the same time. I think it’s a big opportunity when we talk about Australian specific HR.

Jon Windust:
Yes, I agree. I think there’s probably going to be a few changes happen in work and one of the ones that may actually happen in work is even if people are moving on more frequently, I think there’s a great chance that they’ll actually come back to organisations as well. So actually having that alumni group, well actually is useful in itself, but being able to draw people back after they’ve had experience in a different places I think there’s a great opportunity there too.

Chelsea Forster:
It’s a fantastic way to engage new people to your organisation, to show them where other people have gone, what the experience has prepared them for, and that storytelling of somebody’s journey to someone who hasn’t started their journey with your organisation yet is enormous. To go over and speak to somebody has been here for three years and still thinks that we’re fantastic, they’ve gone on to do other wonderful things and we’re still really proud of them, so that’s a very solid proposition for your next cohort of workers.

Jon Windust:
What do you think things are going to look like in ten years’ time? We’ve got all these baby boomers retiring and so there’s going to be a shortage of skill, a shortage of people to fill roles. What do you think it’s going to look like for people in ten years’ time?

Steve Pell:
Look, I think we’re saying the workplace change very dramatically. I think the quote I love on that is Bill Gates when he said we always over-estimate technological change in three years and completely under estimate it over 10.

I think whatever we could sit here and guess, it will be dramatically different to that. I think there’s a couple of things we know, technology is going to play a much greater role, I think flexibility again is going to be just critical for everyone to have. But I still think in terms of are we going to see the end of management…

Jon Windust:
No, no.

Steve Pell:
I don’t see that at all. I think there will be shifts but the changes you’re going to see will be probably around the edges of the concept of work.

Jon Windust:
One of the things that really interests me is freelancing and how quickly that’s taking off. It sort of seems to me to suit a lot of people really well. Obviously I think careers are going to stay for probably the majority of people, but I think a lot are going to jump to freelancing. I think that will suit employers and employees because it gives people freedom and it gives them the sort of a chance to focus on a particular set of skills and work with different clients and use those skills and learn things in that process.

Chelsea Forster:
I think one thing that I think about with the leadership of freelancing and leadership of a freelancing workforce, which is what these millennial leaders will need to do, is to have brilliant leadership because they really are going to need to be able to inspire, captivate and take a group of people that are really choosing to be there or not, on that work journey or on that purpose journey for what they’re trying to achieve. When you talk about leadership and those skills are going to be needed in millennials, is I think one of the most … will be the cornerstone of this generation being highly impactful on our economy.

Jon Windust:
Yes, I agree. I think that leadership is going to be super important bringing together disparate groups of people, one group for this project, another for another project. It has to be a really collaborative process and I think that’s really the world of work that we’re moving to. I find that idea great, it really appeals to me. I think it probably does to a lot of people as well and particularly with gen-Y’s.

Steve Pell:
To come back to something that you talked about earlier, around how do you develop millennials for leadership positions… I think a huge piece of this in organisations has to be mentoring. When we go back and talk about wanting development, one of the core things people want is mentors. Structuring those programs to give people the skills to lead from established leaders, I think it’s critical and probably one of the most important ways to develop. What do you guys think about the role of mentoring?

Chelsea Forster:
I agree, I think it’s essential. I think that the exposure to a mentor and the support and the safety of a mentor is something that millennials will certainly seek out particularly as we see them being a little more lone ranger like. That relationship and that connection with someone that can guide and develop them is imperative.

Jon Windust:
I think training is super important for new leaders and I think that’s often sort of missed in a lot of organisations. But after that training point it has to be mentoring and coaching, and the best people to do that are the existing leadership group within the organisation.

I think they need to be backed up with a strong set of behaviours, the thing that I really like about behavioural statements is they’re very simple to understand, short sentences that describe exactly how you go about doing leadership. So to me they are the foundation of coaching and mentoring people toward that, but it has to be other leaders within the organisation doing that process.

Steve Pell:
I think the great thing about mentorship as well is that you get away from this idea that you can train something once a year and have people then go and develop that skill. It’s that constant feedback cycle that really lets people develop and understand, so getting that feedback fast and frequent is critical.

Jon Windust:
Speaking of which, what are some of the performance management practices that you think have just failed, that don’t work with millennials?

Chelsea Forster:
Grading someone twice a year from one to five. I think they don’t care. It’s like, “So you think I’m a three? Good on you.” But settling up beside someone and coaching them on the job and rewarding them and saying, “Well done,” and “Have a go,” and “I believe in you,” and “You can do it,” and giving them the confidence and the room to experiment, and then the quick critique is definitely the way forward over this kind of stagnant discussion once or twice a year.

Steve Pell:
Again, to come back to one of the things I was talking about earlier, I don’t think that works for anyone. You’re the performance management expert here, but …

Jon Windust:
I don’t think it works for anyone either. I’m a big believer in agile performance management and regular check in conversations. I don’t think I’ve done that once or twice a year, performance management conversation since the 90’s… and it’s awful.

Whereas when you’re in a leadership role and you actually implement those regular check in’s, the monthly check in’s, it’s a very rewarding process and it creates a great relationship with the person and just completely gets you away from that once or twice a year conversation which was a really stressful point.

The other thing I like about it as well is just that sort of forward looking development approach which it sounds like you’re really adopting at The Foundation for Young Australians rather than being a sort of backward looking review process.

Chelsea Forster:
We find also that the review … well what we know about millennials is they like lots of feedback and that creates a large expectation on someone that’s managing or leading those people. So to create an environment where you can give feedback to everyone, and Cognology obviously allows us to do that, so you can seek out feedback from your peers, “Hey we worked on that project together. Would you mind telling me how you thought I went?”

So that when it comes to the end of the year, when you’ve got this work force that is changing rapidly and you might have had two different managers, or you’ve got your own body of evidence that you can look back at and say, “How did I go this year? What did the six people that I worked most closely with think about my work performance or where could I get better?” So they can self-direct a little bit on seeking the feedback and then developing their own development plans.

Steve Pell:
I mean just to apply devil’s advocate there. I would argue strongly that everyone likes lots of feedback, it’s just millennials are more comfortable asking for it.

Chelsea Forster:
Yes, potentially. Yes, however, in PWC’s next gen report, that was one of the key differences in the generations. They found that the younger generation really are seeking a more consistent and a higher volume of feedback rather than any kind of a formally staged feedback.

Jon Windust:
I’ve seen some research as well saying that the lack of feedback creates stress, which kind of does make a lot of sense when you think about it. You’re sitting there wondering, “What does my boss think of me? What do other people think of the work that I’m doing?” You can actually understand why that actually does create some stress.

Steve Pell:
It doesn’t lead to a healthy workforce right? When you have, “I’m at this level and now at that level and then on this level.” It’s not the way humans behave.

Jon Windust:
Yes.

Chelsea Forster:
We’re social creatures. Most people come to work wanting to do the best job, wanting to please, there’s not a lot of people that arrive to work each day thinking, “I’m going to do the worst job possible,” so they arrive and so to have someone say, “Well done.”

Steve Pell:
I think that’s a great point, I think that’s a really great point actually.

Jon Windust:
All right, so let’s have a little bit of a talk about gen-Y and social technology because they sort of seem to be the ones driving the need for it, although again you can argue that everyone sort of really appreciates and gets something from social technology. Tell us a bit about how you think it should be used and any areas where you think it should be avoided?

Chelsea Forster:
Yes, so I think that with the millennial generation, they have had technology with them all the time. They’ve always got a device in their hands or very close by. So then to come to a work environment and say, “You can’t use Facebook and you can’t use Twitter and you can’t …” It’s like cutting down their community and cutting down a connection with the rest of their world.

We believe in it. We believe in having it on all the time around you, use it and use it to the benefit of your work and the benefit of your own growth.

I see technology working in our organisation as creating a sense of community and also a sense of pipeline of help and, “Who can I go to ask and can I send them a quick message and ask for help or for guidance or has anyone seen this before?” those sorts of things.

Where we see technology not work for this generation is in the feedback on their own performance from their manager. We know through the research that that is still definitely a place for face-to-face and face-to-face communication rather than it all being …

Jon Windust:
Yes, I think there’s a big opportunity with social tech, isn’t there, that you can recognise people in front of others and so you can have this sort of great recognition culture and share information with enterprise social tech. But there is still very much that need for someone, a leader, to sit down with a person and just face-to-face have the conversation. I think that conversation has always been important and it still is important and the technology doesn’t replace that.

Chelsea Forster:
Yes, I agree.

Steve Pell:
I think that’s kind of the thing that when you … and to your question earlier about what happens in five, ten years’ time, sure we’ll see people in offices less but we don’t expect organisations to never have offices right? You’ve talked about Automattic, which I think is a great example of a company that’s global, multi-billion dollar company, that really doesn’t have a formal office structure.

They don’t have offices. They work remotely the vast majority of the time. They still get together, every couple of months to discuss and to talk about how everyone is going, to work together and build those bonds, so we are social creatures right?

Jon Windust:
Absolutely, yes.

Chelsea Forster:
Yes, and to get together to discuss what you’ve achieved, that sense of celebration can’t be done all the time over social media or where are we going? That inspiring leadership message needs to be standing collectively together. That is always going to be more powerful when you’ve got a group of people in a room for those messages than it being a broadcast video or message.

Jon Windust:
Should organisations be worried about social tech? Should they be worried about people overusing it or using it too much?

Steve Pell:
They should be worried about their employees performance, is my view, regardless of the distractions … There are always distractions. There have always been distractions. There always will be distractions. At the end of the day, for me, and I think I would probably sum up a view of a lot of people of my generation as well, that either someone is performing or they are not, and anything that’s additional or outside of that, it means that you’re not managing them properly. I think if you’re worried about the input rather than the output, I think it is bad management.

Jon Windust:
Yes, I agree. I think if you’ve got a great set of goals, you’re aligning with people in the organisation, organisations purpose, and you’ve got some well written goals, then it’s much easier, that process is much easier because you don’t have to worry that monitoring social media use. What you have to be worried about is whether or not they’re achieving those goals that the organisation wants.

Steve Pell:
It’s also hard. When you walk into … it does go against your first impulse as a manager. I know if I walk into a room and I see someone on Facebook, there’s that impulse to say, “What are you doing?”. You have to check that and question instead, “Am I happy with the output and what I’m getting?” I think otherwise it’s very easy to get into a cycle of managing input.

Jon Windust:
All right. I think that’s a great place to finish for today. Thank you very much for coming in Chelsea and thank you very much Steve, I’ve been fascinated by the discussion. Thank you.

Steve Pell:
Thanks Jon.

Chelsea Forster:
Thank you.