leadership development

The Business of People – Six Trends to Capitalize On

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HR as a strategic business partner? Absolutely. It’s no longer simply a support function for hiring and firing, and I made this point clear to a room full of senior executives during a recent workshop that I delivered. I even reinforced the point with the one trend that is music to the ears of everyone in business — happy, engaged and well-trained team members can move top-line growth.

This was only one of the six trends that I highlighted that are impacting business and the teams that we build. As a senior business leader, I view these as a great opportunity to maximize the impact your people practices can have on the bottom line. I wanted to take the opportunity to share them with you so that you can leverage them in your businesses:

1. The Leadership Gap
The top business issue reported in Deloitte’s “Predictions for 2014” was that more than 60 percent of executives are struggling with leadership gaps at all levels. Organizations need to have a strategy to develop the talent required to deliver corporate goals today and in the future.

2. Big Data
The call for Big Data is starting to ring in all facets of business. And while Big Data tells you the analytics at a quantitative level there is an absence of qualitative data associated with it. For example, Big Data can tell you that someone drove five miles but it can’t tell you how the driver enjoyed the ride. As the human element of Big Data evolves and using data to make decisions permeates organizations it will be imperative to establish and utilize people metrics.

3. Hyper Connected Consumer
With 91% of U.S. adults online using social media regularly and the average person checking their cell phone 150 times per day, it is driving a frantic consumption of information and a rapid pace of change. With this pace of change it is essential to have processes in place that makes change “sticky”.

4. Experience Seekers
Customer loyalty is no longer a singular function of product satisfaction. Customer experience now plays such a substantial role that customers are willing to pay a premium for a better experience. The Disney Institute and McKinsey Company recently reported companies whose employees consistently offered exceptional customer experience realized a 2-percentage point advantage over their peers in revenue growth along with an increased employee satisfaction and engagement of 30 percent. Companies need to focus on employee engagement to drive employee satisfaction and create customer loyalty.

5. Customer Disloyalty
According to Forbes, among unhappy customers, 86 percent will stop doing business with a company because of bad service, 51 percent will give a company only one chance and only 4 percent will ever voice their dissatisfaction. Even 24 percent of content customers continue to seek out new vendors. It is more challenging now than ever to get and keep satisfied customers and we know the key to customer satisfaction is employee engagement.

6. Investing for Growth
There is a further shift away cost reduction and towards investment in growth. Deloitte is reporting that 24 percent of companies will be investing for growth this year; this is up from only 16 percent the past three years. To take advantage of this investment in growth, senior HR leaders need to have readied a business case for increased spending.

Now, more than ever, there are profound possibilities for people practices to have a significant business impact through:
• Crafting a talent development strategy
• Establishing and utilizing people metrics
• Making your change management process “sticky”
• Building employee engagement to create customer loyalty
• Having a business case for increased spending

Being able to seize the opportunity these business trends offer can have a significant impact on your bottom line!

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How to avoid becoming your company’s biggest liability

Originally published on March 3, 2014 as a Guest Column in The Globe and Mail

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I was on LinkedIn recently when a news update popped up. In the story, a CFO asks the CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave the company?” The CEO answers, “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”

This vignette resonated with me: When I was a 20-something entrepreneur, I was that CFO. It’s not that I didn’t value my employees, but I was always cynical about investing in people who were likely to leave the company before our investment in their training and development had paid off. Now, as a 40-something entrepreneur and CEO, I’m happy to say that I have turned the corner.

Over the past few years, I have worked on culture, values and team-building than on any other part of our business, and it’s had incredible impact. Yes, the environment has changed. But I know the level of our employees’ participation, engagement and satisfaction have all changed, too – and our clients are the ultimate beneficiaries.

This is one of those ‘hindsight is 20/20’ or ‘if I knew then what I know now’ situations. As entrepreneurs, we come by our (lack of) strategic people skills honestly. When we start out, there’s only ‘me’ or ‘you.’ We founders do everything on our own, with no one to rely on but ourselves, which is the reason why it’s natural to put the ‘me’ ahead of the ‘team.’

But as the business grows, it’s important to recognize that it will take more than just you to get things done. It’s a big step to acknowledge that you’re not going to be good at everything. It’s an even bigger step to realize that if you don’t broaden your perspective, and understand the areas where you need support, you could become your company’s biggest liability.

Recently, I took it upon myself to ensure that this wouldn’t happen to me. I completed a straightforward behavioural assessment that involved 10 minutes of reacting to words that best (or least) described me. Going in, I was reluctant and dubious, wondering how such a brief test could summarize a lifetime. To my surprise (and perhaps chagrin), the assessment hit the nail on the head. The results declared me to be assertive, competitive, direct, driving and forceful. Not bad for a leader and entrepreneur. But not necessarily good for someone who should be participating in HR leadership and detail management.

What an entrepreneurial wake-up call. There were actually some things that others could do better than me. Imagine my shock! The bottom-line is that this tool – this awakening – has set in play a process that will help me focus on the strengths I bring to the business, and help me attract and build a team that complements not only my skills, but those of each other’s.

Want to make improvements in your own company? Here are the three key areas that will make or break your business: attract, retain and perform.

To attract the best people, successful organizations must have a brand that speaks to talented prospects who align with the company’s goals and values. To compete for talent today, companies must satisfy workers’ desire for a complete experience, not just a job.

With select employees now in place, winning companies turn their attention to ensuring these people stay. To retain great people you have to deliver on the brand promise you made at the hiring stage. Organizations must get to know their employees as individuals. Know what each worker needs to succeed, and give them the tools and the environment to be the best they can be.

The final and perhaps most significant opportunity is perform. Are your employees the best in the business? Are they constantly coming up with new ideas on how to do their jobs better and move the organization forward? Your leadership, shared goal-setting, and ability to promote the right behaviour are the biggest single influence on your organization’s ability to perform.

Through a culture of continuous innovation, leadership development, team effectiveness and employee engagement, organizations can measurably boost alignment and performance. But it all starts with you.

So nudge your ego aside, and make room for some company at the top of your company.

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