1. Business Development Sectors Failing to Use Employee Feedback to Drive Strategic Change

    January 14, 2016 by ahmed


    Originally posted on CXM

    Organisations see the importance of listening to employees, but are failing to collect feedback often enough and are only using it tactically, rather than strategically. These are the headline findings of recent pan-European research carried out by enterprise feedback management software provider Questback.

    70% of respondents said that employee feedback contributes to the delivery of business development strategy and 82% believe the content of staff surveys is aligned with corporate priorities. At a time when most business development sectors face continual business change, the insight staff provide is increasingly valuable, as recognised by the fact that 96% discuss it at senior management meetings.

    However, the vast majority (90%) still carry out employee surveys annually (48%) or every two years (42%). This is far too infrequent given the fast-moving nature of business development, and the desire of staff to give and receive more regular feedback. This is contributing to a realisation that simply running surveys annually is no longer frequent enough – 25% of managers surveyed felt that current timescales were insufficient, with a further 5% unsure on frequency.

    Once it is collected, feedback is being used tactically, rather than to support strategic business goals.

    81% used employee insight to improve the working environment, with 73% seeing it as a way to encourage dialogue between managers and employees. Under half (45%) used feedback to ensure that employees are aligned to strategic priorities and goals and just 48% applied staff feedback to improve business development processes.

    “When it comes to employee feedback, our research uncovered a gap between theory and practice,” said Frank Møllerop, Questback CEO. “On the positive side, senior management say they want to use the insight staff provide strategically – yet this is not translating into regular, integrated programmes that embed feedback into business decision making. Too many companies are stuck in annual survey cycles, rather than opening the two way, continuous dialogue with staff that is necessary in today’s business world. Now is the time to change if they want to bridge this gap and reap the rewards of listening to staff, and acting on their feedback.”

    The tactical emphasis of many organisations was backed up by the other types of surveys they are carrying out with staff. The most popular areas were collecting feedback around training evaluation (64%) and exit surveys (60%). Very few are monitoring the entire employee lifecycle, with just 18% conducting onboarding surveys and only 4% asking for feedback when there are major changes in the employee journey, such as around promotion, changing team, or being assigned a new manager.

    Organisations are beginning to take a more holistic view of employee feedback, with nearly two thirds (65%) able to link data from different surveys together. This will make it easier to gain a complete picture of what their staff are saying, and shows a marked improvement on research carried out by Questback in 2014. This found that just 36% of companies were able to integrate employee and customer feedback, with many blaming technical issues for holding back their plans.

    Questback surveyed 2,000 senior managers involved with employee feedback from organisations across the United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Finland and Sweden. The online research was carried out in the second half of 2015.

    A full management report detailing the findings can be downloaded here.

  2. Why You Should NOT Leave Your Job to Become an Entrepreneur

    December 8, 2015 by ahmed


    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Sallie Krawcheck

    I went to a recent Ellevate Network event, at which we hosted a pretty prominent entrepreneur, who runs a VC-funded start-up that’s gaining some real traction. In other words, she’s “living the dream.” Someone in the audience asked her whether it was fun to be an entrepreneur.

    She paused.

    Her answer? “No. Not really.”

    I can relate. In addition to owning the Ellevate Network, I’ve recently announced a Series A raise for a new business, Ellevest. This is a to-be-launched digital investment platform for women. These after a career at big companies. And not a handful of days goes by that someone doesn’t ask me “Aren’t you having so much fun?”

    The truth is that being an entrepreneur is harder than running Merrill Lynch. (And I’m not just saying that; I actually ran Merrill Lynch.) It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

    Sure, it’s great not to have to attend the Operational Risk Committee meeting and sit through the page-by-page review of the 226-page deck. I can’t tell you how great.

    But for those of you thinking of leaving your big-company job to be an entrepreneur, here’s why you shouldn’t:

    Raising money can be humbling. Really humbling. None of us likes being told our baby is ugly…..again and again and again. “But, hey, keep in touch.”

    B2B sales are humbling….and take longer than you can imagine. No, your phone calls aren’t returned as quickly as when you worked in your big company job. You expect that. The more interesting insight to me has been how often people try to be nice and end up stringing you along. They don’t recognize that a “fast no” is ok; it’s the “slow no” that kills you.

    And even a “slow yes” can put you out of business. I worked with one guy at a big bank who loved a start-up so much…and encouraged them so much…that the start-up ran out of money and shut its doors as all of the approvals for doing business with them were working their way through the system.

    So sometimes a “fast no” can even trump a “slow yes.”

    Hiring people is hard. Hiring people is always hard. But at a start-up, the stakes are so much higher. That’s in part because there are simply fewer people, so one has to be more thoughtful about making sure there aren’t any holes in the start-up team’s skillsets (and that includes filling in the founder’s “flat sides”). That’s why, for me, team diversity is so important.

    And is it just me?? Because I’ve found, amongst entrepreneurs, some of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with, by good measure; they love the rush of entrepreneurialism and would never thrive in the constraints of a big company.

    And then there have been some others. I’ve come across a couple of screamers. By that I mean, people who scream. At work. A lot. The screamers are filtered out of big companies pretty quickly. So watch for people who’ve bounced around a lot, and particularly watch for people who receive less-than-effusive recommendations. And always, always do back-channel reference checks.

    Hiring people is hard, Part 2. If you come from a corporate background, many of your contacts won’t fit your job descriptions and needs: the jobs pay less cash than what big company folks are making, the jobs may be broader than what they are doing , and parts of the jobs can be more junior.

    (An example: I’m copyediting and have been building earnings models. Not something I would have thought I would be doing at this stage of my career. I happen to love both of those things and find them relaxing. But that may be a personal quirk.)

    I had this issue at Ellevest. As we began to hire, you would have thought I would have known a lot of Chief Investment Officers….and I do. But it took me the better part of a year to find our Chief Investment Officer because I wanted one who had the experience and analytical grounding….but then was able to, and wanted to, approach the puzzle of women and investing in a creative way.

    Office space. When I speak to young-entrepreneur-hopefuls, I hear what they think the office environment will be like. Start with a bit of time in a shared workspace; then move into your own offices with exposed brick walls, a foosball table and beer on tap; and then you’re a billionaire.

    For some, perhaps. Right now, at my start-up, we’re in a space that’s so small I can’t get out of my chair without slamming into the back of our lead designer. At some point, we may fuse into the same person.

    And everybody’s a critic. If your idea is truly innovative, you’re going to hear from the naysayers. After all, if it were such a good idea, someone would have already done it, right??

    Oh, and it’s terrifying. Something I never thought about in my big-company job: cash flow. When your business has billions of dollars in revenue, you can make a lot of mistakes and still have a viable business. But in a start-up, make a few hiring mistakes (it takes several months to find the right person, a couple of months to figure out they’re not the right person, a couple of more months when you try to coach them and give them the opportunity to become the right person, then another couple of months after you part ways to find the next right person)….oh, and the work they’re supposed to be doing doesn’t get done in that period of time….well, do that a few times and you’re out of money.

    Being an entrepreneur is the only time in my career that I’ve lost sleep (and I was on Wall Street during the financial crisis.)

    There is a lot of paperwork…and taxes….and regulations…. I can’t tell you the number of people who tell me they slipped up on some of the paperwork needed for their company. It’s one of the no-fun parts of being an entrepreneur that nobody talks about.

    You can’t coast. You know those days at the office when you used to come in and didn’t really do that much? You don’t have those days as entrepreneur. If you don’t do much, then not much happens. And remember what I said about cash flow? Yeah….that.

    This last paragraph is the one in which I am supposed to say that, even with all of this, I wouldn’t trade being an entrepreneur for anything. And, for me, that’s right. But the failure rate for entrepreneurs is high, so I had to be very, very honest with myself about my, and my family’s, willingness to take on this professional risk.

  3. The Ten Dangers of Sleep Deprivation for Workers

    November 29, 2015 by ahmed

    Originally posted on EHS Today Sandy Smith

    Sleep deprivation is an issue that is often ignored, yet frequently the root cause of decreased productivity, accidents, incidents and mistakes which cost companies billions of dollars each year, reports Circadian, a global leader in providing 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions for businesses that operate around the clock.

    Often, the experts at Circadian say, employers are unaware of the impact fatigue or sleep deprivation is having on their operation until a tragic accident occurs. Only then do managers ask the question: “What happened?”

    Sleep deprivation is much more dangerous than you might realize. It’s not just annoying, like when an employee snoozes in a meeting or yawns during a conversation. Here are 10 real dangers associated with a sleep-deprived workforce:

    1. Decreased communication: When workers are tired, they become poor communicators. In one study, researchers noted that sleep deprived individuals drop the intensity of their voices; pause for long intervals without apparent reason; enunciate very poorly or mumble instructions inaudibly; mispronounce, slur or run words together; and repeat themselves or lose their place in a sentence sequence.

    2. Performance deteriorates: Performance declines frequently include increased compensatory efforts on activities, decreased vigilance and slower response time. The average functional level of any sleep-deprived individual is comparable to the 9th percentile of non-sleep deprived individuals.

    Workers must notice these performance declines, right? Not quite. In fact, sleep deprived individuals have poor insight into their performance deficits. Also, the performance deficits worsen as time on task increases.

    3. Increased risk of becoming distracted: Sleep-deprived individuals have been shown to have trouble with maintaining focus on relevant cues, developing and updating strategies, keeping track of events, maintaining interest in outcomes and attending to activities judged to be non-essential. In fact, research suggests that there is a symbiotic relationship between sleep deprivation and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) due to the overlap in symptoms.

    4. Driving impairments: Due to federal regulations, the trucking industry is well aware of the driving impairments associated with sleep deprivation. However, plant managers are unaware of the ways in which sleep-deprived workers may be dangerously operating machinery (e.g. forklifts or dump trucks). In fact, 22 hours of sleep deprivation results in neurobehavioral performance impairments that are comparable to a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level (legally drunk in the United States).

    5. Increased number of errors: The cognitive detriments of sleep deprivation increase concurrently with a worker’s time on a given task, resulting in an increased number of errors. These errors include mistakes of both commission (i.e. performing an act that leads to harm) and omission (i.e. not performing an expected task), which can wreak havoc at any work facility. Errors especially are likely in subject-paced tasks in which cognitive slowing occurs, and with tasks that are time-sensitive, which cause increases in cognitive errors.

    6. Poor cognitive assimilation and memory: Short-term and working memory declines are associated with sleep deprivation and result in a decreased ability to develop and update strategies based on new information, along with the ability to remember the temporal sequence of events.3

    7. Poor mood appropriate behavior: Inappropriate mood-related behavior often occurs in outbursts, as most sleep-deprived individuals are often quiet and socially withdrawn. However, a single one of these outbursts can be enough to destroy the positive culture of a work environment and cause an HR nightmare.

    These behavioral outbursts can include irritability, impatience, childish humor, lack of regard for normal social conventions, inappropriate interpersonal behaviors and unwillingness to engage in forward planning.

    8. Greater risk-taking behavior: Brain imaging studies have shown that sleep deprivation was associated with increased activation of brain regions related for risky decision making, while areas that control rationale and logical thinking show lower levels of activation. In fact, sleep deprivation increases one’s expectation of gains while diminishing the implications of losses.

    What does this mean for your workers? Sleep-deprived workers may be making riskier decisions, ignoring the potential negative implications, and taking gambles in scenarios in which the losses outweigh the benefits.

    9. Inability to make necessary adjustments: Flexible thinking, preservation on thoughts and actions, updating strategies based on new information, ability to think divergently and innovation are all negatively impacted by sleep deprivation. A worker may be unable to fill a leadership role on request when sleep deprived, resulting in a frustrated management team.

    10. Effects of sleep deprivation compound across nights: Four or more nights of partial sleep deprivation containing less than 7 hours of sleep per night can be equivalent to a total night of sleep deprivation. A single night of total sleep deprivation can affect your functioning for up to two weeks. To your brain, sleep is money and the brain is the best accountant.

    According to Circadian, when you have sleep-deprived or fatigued workers, productivity levels and quality of work will be compromised. Furthermore, you create an environment where it becomes not a matter of if your workplace will have an accident or incident but a matter of when, and to what magnitude.

    Sleep deprivation is no laughing matter, no matter how frequently our society treats the issue light-heartedly. Eventually, our biological drive to compensate for sleep deprivation wins, and the loser might be your workers, your employer or even you.

  4. Why More and More Companies Are Ditching Performance Ratings

    November 24, 2015 by ahmed


    Originally posted on HBR by David RockBeth Jones

    A few years ago, I noticed around half a dozen courageous companies beginning experiments to remove ratings from their performance management systems. Companies such as Juniper and Adobe stopped giving people a one-to-five rating or evaluating employees on a “performance curve,” also known as the “forced ranking” approach. They were still differentiating performance in various ways, and still using a pay-for-performance approach, just not through a simple rating system.

    By early 2015, around 30 large companies, representing over 1.5 million employees, were following a similar path. No longer defining performance by a single number, these companies were emphasizing ongoing, quality conversations between managers and their teams.

    At the NeuroLeadership Institute, we’ve been studying this trend closely since 2011. Our interest in the topic was piqued when clients started to tell us how our research on motivation and the brain was explaining why standard performance reviews were failing. In short, we found that social threats and rewards, like one’s sense of status or fairness, activate intense reaction networks in the brain. This explained the intense reactions people had to being assessed on a ratings scale, and it also pointed to ways of designing better systems.

    The idea of removing ratings drives many HR executives a little crazy because companies love to quantify and analyze almost everything. The thought of getting rid of a metric is almost heretical. Executives who contacted us after reading our research often assumed that removing ratings was an anomaly, perhaps driven by smaller companies who don’t realize how important pay-for-performance is.

    Yet in mid-2015, the trend started to accelerate. Consulting firms Deloitte and Accenture, global health services client Cigna, and even GE—the company who popularized the idea of forcing people into a performance curve—all announced changes to their performance management systems. By September 2015, 51 large firms were moving to a no-ratings systems. According to research firm Bersin by Deloitte, around 70% of companies are now reconsidering their performance management strategy.

    This November, coinciding with our annual Summit, we will publish a full set of findings from closely studying 30 companies that have made this change. But we’ve already seen four, clear reasons the trend is gaining momentum:

    The changing nature of work. Numerical performance management systems don’t take into account how work gets done today. Who sets 12-month goals anymore? Some workers need goal cycles of one month, or even one week. Work is also happening in teams more than ever, and many people are involved in multiple teams that often are spread around the world. Few managers accurately know their team members’ performance when that employee is involved in many other teams, often doing work the manager doesn’t see or even understand. In short, standard performance reviews, delivered once a year, are just not relevant to the ways we work anymore.

    The need for better collaboration. Studying companies that have made the change, we are seeing a clear trend: conventional ratings systems inhibit collaboration, making a business less customer-focused and agile. Top ratings lead to high status, promotions, and raises—yet it’s not like at school, where everyone can get an A if they work hard enough. With a forced curve, a manager with a hardworking team of 10 people may only be allowed to give one or two of them the top rating. As a result, people directly compete with each other for rewards, hurting collaboration. As our forthcoming research will show, when Microsoft removed its ratings, employee collaboration skyrocketed.

    The need to attract and keep talent. Companies also remove ratings to get managers to talk to employees about their development more than once or twice a year. Millennials in particular crave learning and career growth. Of the 30 companies we studied, one preliminary finding that jumped out was that after a company removed ratings, managers talked to their teams significantly more often about performance (three or four times a year instead of only once). More frequent communication helps with employee engagement, development, and fairer pay, as managers better understand how their people are doing.

    The need to develop people faster. By removing ratings, early indications of our research are that companies appear to be developing people faster across the board. It’s happening because of more frequent dialogues, which also tend to be more honest and open when neither party has to worry about justifying a rating at the end of the year.

    When Deloitte analyzed their process, they found employees and managers spent around two million hours a year on performance reviews. The problem was that much of this time was spent talking about the ratings themselves. Companies that remove ratings are seeing the conversations shift from justifying past performance to thinking about growth and development. The result is better employee development, which seems to be a win for everyone.

    Companies who have replaced ratings tend to be anxious about it beforehand and enthusiastic about it afterward. Their employees are happier, which encourages more engagement and better performance. It should be no surprise that treating an employee like a human being and not a number is a better approach. Yet it has taken a few bold companies to lead the way and show us that life is better on the other side. Only time will tell how lasting the trend truly is, but I strongly suspect we are at the beginning of something big.

  5. Answering Your Questions on Work-Life Balance

    November 11, 2015 by ahmed

    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Richard Branson

    Before taking off on Virgin America’s inaugural flight from San Francisco to Honolulu to work hard and Hawaii hard, I took some time out to answer your questions on work-life balance.

    My first answers were to questions all about taking a step back, convincing management to allow working from home and encouraging leaders to take time off. You can watch them all over here, and read some tips on how to be a better boss too.

    Next up, I answered some questions about how technology has affected down-time, how to deal with guilt about flexible working, and how to educate youngsters about work-life balance. Watch the video below to see my answers.

    There will be some more video answers on the way soon, but in the meantime I thought I would answer some questions in writing too.

    Kayode Osokoya asked me: “Work-life balance is easy after the businesses are properly structured. Did you really have such balance at the start of your entrepreneurial pursuit?”

    It’s true – it takes hard work, persistence and long hours to start any new business. This was certainly the case for many Virgin companies, particularly when we were entering highly regulated industries and up against competitors that didn’t want to see us to succeed. The only way to get through those long hours is to love what you do. You have to be passionate about what you are creating and believe in the impact it will have on the world. I have always felt this way – even as a 16-year-old starting out my own magazine, Student, with just a few pennies. It didn’t really feel like work to me because it was fun and I truly believed it would have a positive impact on youth culture. When we were working out of a basement, I would always urge the team to join me outside for a walk in the park in the afternoon. We’d often come up with good ideas out in the fresh air — and sometimes end up jumping in the fountains! My advice is that if it feels like stressful, hard work, and your heart just isn’t in it, it may be time to reassess your business plans.

    Edwin Almonte asked: “How did work/life look when your family was young? A father of three, the “balance” is focused more on ensuring I’m present in my young family’s life as much as possible.”

    My family means the world to me, much more than business or anything else. I know what it’s like when work commitments take you away from family. I have never worked from an office, and worked on our houseboat in Little Venice in London when the kids were young so I could be with them. What’s more, when I travelled — whether for an inaugural flight or a meeting — Holly and Sam would often join me. Being able to spend as much time as possible with your loved ones is absolutely vital, especially early on when you have children — and it’s very promising to see more and more companies recognize this as being central to workplace wellbeing. My advice is to make spending time with your family a priority. Focus upon time management. Schedule dropping your kids at school or family dinnertime in your calendar, just as you would for a meeting.

    Dayna Kovacic asked: “Sometimes, even when I feel I’ve done a great job managing work-life balance, I come out the other end exhausted. There are still so many crazy dreams I want to realize and breathe life into. However, after budgeting time for all my extracurricular life activities and rest, which are super important and fill me up outside out of work, I still don’t have any energy to focus on innovation for my personal brand. I totally agree with your statement “there is no separation between work and life — it’s all living,” but do you ever turn off from work and non work activities completely to recharge or is it a daily practice you fit in? What’s your strategy and how do you execute it?”

    Don’t worry Dayna, I get tired too! There are some days where I step off a long flight and then go straight to back-to-back events, only to get on another long flight the next day. We aren’t the only ones — Virgin America recently ran a promotion in Silicon Valley, one of the hardest working regions in the world. We received an overwhelming response from more than 65,000 people who told us they desperately needed a break too.

    Try to get plenty of exercise. I find my nothing recharges my mind better than getting out onto the ocean and kitesurfing. I come back from the waves ready for anything. Even though I am known as Doctor Yes, it is sometimes necessary to say no in order to be more productive. Rather than join an unnecessary meeting, schedule a walk, take a yoga class, or do helps you unwind personally. I also think there’s an unnecessary reluctance to delegate tasks, which leads to people working long hours. Delegation is a great skill to have because it gives you more time to think about the big picture, while allowing someone else to grow and gain new skills in your place.

    Heidi Hanson asked: “I work from home in the wedding industry, so I have a hard time with both my family understanding when it is work time (not interrupting me when I’m in the computer or phone calls with clients); and also with clients not understanding I’m not available 24/7. How can I communicate that to both my family and clients without upsetting everyone?”

    Hi Heidi – well firstly, I think it’s wonderful that you have the opportunity to work from home. Flexible working, whereby you have control over when and where you work, can be highly effective, but I can understand your situation. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you should be expected to work every hour of the day, but I also don’t think you should tell your clients that you’re only available from 9-5 p.m., as this is rather outdated. Instead, my advice would be to take advantage of the freedom that you have to create a schedule that works best for you. It could be that you dedicate yourself to phone calls/emails in 30-minute blocks.

    I put on my out-of-office alert when I am having family time — and leave my phone in another room. It also helps if you can keep your workspace separate from the family areas of your home — it doesn’t matter where — in fact, I’ll often catch-up on emails in a hammock, but it will help you to give your full attention to your work and ultimately be more productive.

    Do keep the questions coming, and look out for more answers soon. In the meantime, head over to Virgin America for more inspiration to Work Hard, Hawaii Hard.