Employee EngagementEvidence-Based HRInnovation

Driving Corporate Strategy

Find out the key takeaways from this year’s top sessions.

By Marta Chmielowicz

This year’s HRO Today Forum was jam-packed full of best practices, engaging conversations, and valuable insights that will continue to deliver in the coming year. Here are some highlights from a few of the standout sessions:

Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want

Career opportunities are the number one reason people join organizations -and the number one reason they leave. In her session, Beverly Kaye, founder and chairwoman of Career Systems International, explained that organizations that wish to prevent their employees from looking elsewhere in today’s competitive talent market need to focus on one thing: helping them grow.

But growth cannot happen without short, consistent, intentional career conversations that are relevant to employees’ day-to-day work routines. By taking advantage of daily opportunities to be curious and ask questions, managers can encourage their employees to reflect on their goals and experiences. They can show employees that they are invested and willing to guide them in their career journey -and that this journey doesn’t have to be linear. Moving “onward and upward” is quickly replacing moving “forward and toward,” and it is the job of the manager to encourage employees to set goals and find their own path to growth.

For truly meaningful career conversations, Kaye recommends that managers ask a combination of questions that require both hindsight and foresight. Hindsight questions may ask employees to reflect on their skills, interests, and blind spots, while foresight questions inspire reflection about industry disruption and future business changes. Armed with these insights, employees can begin to develop a viable career plan that managers can help them execute by providing the necessary learning opportunities.

Conversations about careers are all about sparking reflection, says Kaye. They can help employees discover what they’re good at, what they like doing, and what they don’t like doing. They may even be about committing to a small step. But no matter the result, as long as there is authenticity and true curiosity in the exchange, organizations will find that employees will want to stay.

CHRO Roundtable

Moderated by Roger Gaston, executive vice president of HR at Gates Corporation, five leading HR executives took the stage for a dynamic panel discussion about today’s hottest HR topics. Faced with questions ranging from the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) to talent and skills shortages, these professionals discussed the tactics they use to drive strategy and growth at their organizations. Following are some of their key insights:

Gaston: How are you using AI and how’s it affecting the way you look at and measure your workforce?

Max Langenkamp, vice president of HR, Cintas: AI will be the equalizer. We will need to find that effi ciency and that value through technology. Today, we use it for training, to speed up our onboarding process, and other things that are taking work away from HR business partners, but so far, it’s only on a small scale. Once we explode it in our department, it will save us wages as well as efficiency.

Gaston: Do you use gig workers and how is this impacting your workplace?

Julie Fletcher, chief talent officer, AMN Healthcare: The gig economy forms our core business -we provide contingent workers and interim leaders to our clients. We definitely see a rise in contingent labor coming and going, and a lot of “try before you buy.” Our culture is extremely intense and it’s not the culture for everybody so I see the benefits of coming and going, but sometimes this is challenging. Our number one CEO goal in the organization is talent and retention, so I do worry that with the organization growing rapidly, you need people to stay and be hands-on.

Gaston: As a CHRO, what role do you play in your organization’s planning process and strategic development of corporate objectives, as well as execution?

Christine Escklisen, chief human capital officer, Piper Jaffrey: I’m involved in ongoing discussions about the appropriate strategic direction of the company as well as how to execute it. You have to be the voice of reason about what’s possible. One of the biggest roles I play is helping to develop people effectively and talent planning.

Gaston: As you look into the future, what is one trend that you’re excited about and one trend that really scares you?

Kevin Silva, executive vice president and CHRO, Voya Financial: Companies that understand and capitalize on diversity are the ones that are going to win. It’s now the norm and it’s no longer appropriate to aspire to diversity. Creating the environment where diversity will thrive will win. Being a values-based organization is also important -it’s HR’s role to be the change and model the change that you want in other executives.

Gaston: Have you done anything around agile and how has it affected your internal practices?

Cindy Fiedelman, CHRO, Digital Realty: There are a lot of groups across the company that are working in a more project-oriented environment. From a talent acquisition standpoint, we’ve tried to adjust our performance management system so that there’s flexibility and fluidity so that people can adjust goals and get real-time feedback.

One-on-One Interview with Andrea Ledford

At NCR Corporation, Andrea Ledford, CHRO and executive vice president of the chief administration office, works to facilitate an “iNCRedible culture” where employees take charge of their own engagement and success. For Ledford, reinventing the organization’s culture was key to the execution of NCR’s corporate strategy and essential to embedding the strategy into the minds of each employee.

By encouraging employees to help develop a corporate culture that is defined by their own values, NCR has succeeded in making sure that every employee is committed to living those values both in and out of the workplace. The values are integrated and reinforced in every interaction with employees, from the onboarding process to moments of recognition and daily calls to action.

This all contributes to what Ledford calls a “we, me, us” model of engagement. At NCR, the individual (the “me”) makes the decision to work hard for the benefi t of the team (the “we”) and the collective community (the “us”). Teams celebrate victories and confront failures together, reducing fear around failure and making room for innovation, says Ledford.

As a result of this approach, every individual at NCR owns their own engagement -it is not the responsibility of managers or the HR department. This level of independence and dedication to three values -dedication, performance, and integrity -has helped employee engagement at NCR increase significantly, with 82 percent participation in the engagement survey.

HR Goes Agile

Peter Cappelli, director of the Center of Human Resources at The Wharton School, believes that “agile” is the next big thing in business. The key driver of business success is ideas, and agile is a way of managing projects that allows teams to execute on new ideas without being restricted by rigid plans and processes.

Originally emerging from the IT world, agile is now becoming a top priority for CEOs that require innovation quickly. In a typical workplace, project managers must explain their end product and demonstrate a return on investment before a project can even begin, but agile circumvents this, giving teams the power to solve a problem organically based on prototyping and continuous feedback.

In this type of work model, the function of HR changes. HR professionals in agile businesses are relied on to ensure that teams get the help they need when they need it; they must learn to anticipate skill gaps in advance and provide the right learning modules quickly to fill those gaps. Because teams, rather than individuals, are the primary production unit, HR will need to understand how to empower and engage teams and adapt their compensation and recruiting functions to match. Just as agile is creating a new model of business, it will also create the future model of HR.


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Tags: Employee Engagement, HRO Today Forum, June 2018, Leadership, Magazine Article

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