Human Performance Deserves More Than a Review

Campaign/FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post. I will or have received compensation for this post. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services, and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from.  I am not formally employed by Trakstar. All thoughts and viewpoints are created and written by me. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Of the many dynamics or tasks that have to be executed between employee and employer, performance reviews are probably the most hated. Over the past few years, there have been extreme calls to get rid of the performance evaluation. For this argument, there are two camps. The first camp is comprised of those who never saw a purpose for a once-a-year process that is labor-intensive as well as challenging. The second camp is made up of people who see it as a necessary evil that perhaps needs some reinvention. There are viable arguments on both ends and yet they all miss one important factor, we are dealing with humans.

It amazes me how often we forget the human factor whether we are talking about a new HR Technology or the discipline of HR on the whole. We serve humans and they serve us. When we design and develop policies, procedures, processes or technology based on the day-to-day needs and realities of our employees we garner compliance, trust, and a willingness to be a part of the solution. People are not merely a cog in the wheel or a means to an end for your company. They have shared their talents with you in an effort to:

  • Progress a specific career trajectory.
  • Sustain them financially, so they can live and provide for themselves and their families.
  • Test out the kind of work they are good at and also like to do.

Just for a moment, let us assume that everyone who you employ shows up with the intention to do their best daily. You expect productivity, engagement, and a genuine interest in the work being done at your company, but what is the emotional and physical ROI for those expressions? If I am diligently churning out quality work daily, I want to be able to connect the dots between my contributions and the effect they have on the employer’s mission and/or goals. Conversely, if I’m not performing to standards or am executing a task in a way that isn’t helpful or wanted, I would appreciate open dialogue about that concern rather than to find out a year later that I am being put on a performance improvement plan for an issue that could have been solved with direct communication.

Communication is a core challenge when we speak about everything from performance evaluations to succession planning. If I understand what is expected of me and there will be multiple checkpoints throughout the year for me to revise goals or have a discussion with my boss to discuss progress, there is absolutely nothing that could blind-side me during the performance process. Continuous communication makes it so that everyone is on the same page about goals, execution, and outcomes alleviating serendipitous and uneasy performance conversations later in the year. If I am made aware that I am being slated as a top performer for future leadership opportunities, I may reconsider looking elsewhere for the opportunities I seek. People can’t plan their lives let alone their careers when leaders neglect to communicate on a regular basis. Increasingly, your employees want their power back. By power I mean the ability to have a say about what they accomplished through their efforts, to be heard and acknowledged as someone who has contributed either individually or as part of the team to the success of your company.

How can you start to empower your employees from a performance perspective?

Here are a few tips:

  • Be upfront about how success will be measured. As mentioned before, no one deserves to be blindsided because you failed to communicate what is expected.
  • Where possible, give your employees the ability to craft their own goals in collaboration with you. If I am setting my goals, I will be a lot more inclined to rise to the challenge than if goals are forced upon me.
  • Start to review performance as a continuous cycle of learning and development for both you and your employee. No one is perfect. In fact, leaders aren’t perfect. We need to start assuming that people want to do the right thing as opposed to the wrong thing. Use continuous feedback and performance discussions to help people improve rather than to penalize them.

Pardon my next statement, but it needs to be said. There is no excuse to struggle through performance evaluations when various approaches to managing it are available such as technology. I recently had the opportunity to give a new performance management solution called Trakstar a try. What I loved about the solution was the ability to set clear and individual goals whether to assess the overall performance of an employee or to have a basis for evaluating project-based contributions that too often fly under-the-radar from a recognition standpoint. The entire solution encourages companies to get out of the mode of the once per year review and instead set up several touchpoints throughout the cycle so that no employee is ever left behind or lost in the abyss of the workforce. The most tedious aspect of performance is keeping up with the documentation of it. Trakstar makes this a completely online process and provides for user-friendly scheduling of performance discussions, check-ins, and authentic dialogue around productivity and performance.

Your employees have a purpose in mind and a voice they wish they could express more at work. Implementing technology in lieu of genuine face-to-face dialogue is a step in the right direction of ensuring that you are in regular dialogue with your people even as you get caught up in the day-to-day.

To get some insight on how you can improve your own performance and feedback process, sign up for Trakstar’s live demo to see it in action and assess whether it is right for your organization.

Trust: Why It Matters and How Tech Can Help

Campaign/FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored guest blog post. I will receive compensation for this post. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from.  I am not formally employed by Ultimate Software. All thoughts and viewpoints are created and written by Adam Rogers of Ultimate Software. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Many Americans spend more time with their colleagues than they do with their families, so it’s not surprising that the strength of these relationships is important to job satisfaction. Trust, respect, and communication are vital aspects of a positive employee experience, but far too often, these critical factors are ignored or largely overlooked by organizations—perhaps partly due to the innate difficulty of tracking these metrics.

 

And how important is that trust, really?

 

Can I Trust You?

According to recent research, extremely. 9 out of 10 employees think trusting their direct managers is important to remaining satisfied at work, but less than half of employees actually do. An April SHRM study learned that respondents were not content with workplace trust levels, even when reporting high job satisfaction. And Rapt Media found more than a third of US employees feel like their companies don’t care about them at all—likely contributing to the 69% of respondents who said they’re either open to other opportunities or already seeking another job.

 

These statistics are concerning, raising red flags about productivity, retention, and everything in-between. Two-way trust is a crucial aspect of a stable, satisfying and successful work environment, but establishing and nurturing this within an organization can be difficult. Trust is certainly multi-faceted, at work as in life, but experts agree that communication is required, including transparency and responding to feedback. When implemented correctly, these communications tenets are valuable strategies.

 

In fact, 75% of workers said they would stay in an organization longer if their employer listened to—and addressed—their concerns. Can you imagine the financial impact of a 75% reduction in attrition?

 

Leveraging Technology to Cultivate Trust

To build a high-performing culture based on trust and communication, employers must effectively uncover their employees’ true feelings and respond appropriately. Many organizations currently rely on annual performance reviews, which can be quite valuable for assessing employee performance against pre-determined goals and objectives. But when it comes to obtaining quality feedback and insight into the employee experience, these infrequent evaluations almost always fall short.

 

Fortunately, technology has caught up with this significant need. Basic online templates evolved to sophisticated pulse surveys that can measure employee experience in real-time. In addition to yes/no queries and other quantitative tools, these innovative solutions can also decode open-ended surveys with exceptional accuracy. UltiPro Perception™, for example, uses advanced natural language processing and machine-learning algorithms to analyze text-based responses and identify key workplace themes, like trust, as well as the respondent’s underlying emotions.

 

This highly strategic tool can be effortlessly deployed at regular intervals to assess employee sentiment, either for the entire organization or filtered by location, position, manager, etc. Patterns emerge and business leaders receive real-time, actionable analysis and instant insights to improve trust, satisfaction, and retention within the organization.

 

These surveys allow leaders to measure how their employees feel about the hot-button topics frequently blamed for job dissatisfaction, such as family-friendly policies, growth opportunities, or job flexibility. Armed with data-based feedback about what matters most to their employees, executives have real power to evaluate and address pain points—building trust simultaneously.

 

For 46% of organizations surveyed in SHRM/Globoforce’s 2016 survey, employee retention was the #1 workforce management challenge. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By actively listening and responding to employees, it’s possible for organizations to solidify a culture of trust and communication—improving engagement, productivity, and retention in return.

 

Giving a voice to the voiceless with technology

Image courtesy of Ultimate Software.

Image courtesy of Ultimate Software.

Campaign/FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored product review. I will receive compensation for this post. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from.  I am not formally employed by Ultimate Software. All thoughts and viewpoints are created and written by me. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

In the HR industry, we spend a lot of time talking about the best ways to engage the people that work tirelessly for us. The thing that we often overlook in the engagement conversation is: “communication.” While that may seem broad, let’s explore a bit. How likely do you think your employees are to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns at work? You may be thinking: “I have an open-door policy” or “we periodically send out employee surveys.” All of this is a great start, but I would argue that between your open-door policy, employee surveys, town halls, and overall company culture lays a tremendous gap between what you think you know and what your employees truly feel.

Why the gap?

Understanding employee voice requires that you understand the various inputs and ways in which employees communicate. Encouraging your employees to speak up is admirable, but not nearly enough. If asked, many employees will describe a sense of fear around offering up ideas, thoughts, and concerns, whether solicited or unsolicited. While this sentiment is often based on unfounded perceptions of the consequences of communicating freely, it is just as often rooted in experiences where feedback led to negative outcomes such as low performance ratings, indifferent behavior by management, isolation, and even termination as illustrated in an HBR article, “Can Your Employees Really Speak Freely.”

Case and point, employees are fearful of speaking up. In turn, that fear presents a challenge for organizations that are desperate to thwart turnover and other organizational maladies to better retain their workforce. According to a 2016 survey by Xerox, 53% of employers cite retention of top talent as an “organizational priority” for 2017. In order to retain your people, you need to have some insight into their ideas, intentions, and behaviors. The pathway to rounding-up that information isn’t exactly a simple science without some heavy lifting by technology. The reason for this is: Much of your intelligence around what motivates your employees is likely lying dormant as unstructured data fueled by performance evaluations, pulse surveys, exit interviews, internal communication tools, etc.

While all of this information is lying dormant, organizations are left vulnerable and in a state of inaction. Without visibility for situations and actions brewing under your nose, many organizations will continue to wonder why they can’t get ahead where employee engagement and retention is concerned.

Luckily for the HR industry, one of my favorite HR Technology companies, Ultimate Software, has gotten into the data game specifically to assist companies illuminating the true feelings and emotions behind employee responses.

Ultimate Software has a new solution called UltiPro Perception™. They were kind enough to allow me to ask them some questions about their solution and how it can help you. Here’s the scoop:

Help me understand how UltiPro Perception captures employee sentiment.

UltiPro Perception uses advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms to analyze open-ended responses within employee surveys. The solution’s sophisticated technology interprets text-based feedback to uncover the feelings and emotions behind employees’ responses. Leaders and managers can then assess the overall sentiment for individual employees, teams, or the organization as a whole. The solution also looks for repeated keywords to identify more than 70 workplace themes or topics, and over 100 emotions beneath the surface of employee answers.

Why is UltiPro Perception better than any other tool out there using sentiment analysis?

UltiPro Perception is uniquely built to analyze unstructured data and uncover not only what employees are saying, but also how they feel, about things like work environment, culture, and leadership. UltiPro provides managers with easy-to-understand, actionable insights that will have a true impact on improving employee retention and engagement.

Another key differentiator is that UltiPro Perception is part of UltiPro’s comprehensive HCM suite. Organizations can easily collect feedback from the right groups of employees based on location, supervisor, tenure, and more—essentially any data element within UltiPro. Most competitive tools have no or limited HRIS/HCM integration and lack enterprise-level requirements such as configurability options and proper role-based security. Other employee survey solutions typically require costly, manual processes or they rely solely on quantitative analytics, and therefore can’t give organizations a true understanding of employee sentiment before it’s too late to take meaningful action.

How does UltiPro Perception arm managers and organizations in being able to manage the Talent Management life cycle better (i.e. Recruitment through Succession)?

UltiPro Perception offers built-in survey templates to gather feedback throughout the employee lifecycle—from candidate, to new hire, engagement, post-learning, exit, and more. Surveys can be configured to automatically be sent once a specific work event occurs, such as a promotion or performance review.

Key driver analysis provides real-time, actionable metrics to help guide managers towards the most effective next steps. Combining these results with UltiPro’s predictive analytics tools and Leadership Actions, managers have powerful resources to support, coach, and retain their employees.

Regarding data and reporting, how simple is UltiPro Perception for HR practitioners new to sentiment analysis?

With UltiPro Perception, data collection, management, analysis, and the delivery of insights are all automated, with both standard and configurable reports available. Report-quality insights are delivered in plain English—no training required. UltiPro Perception’s easy-to-read, interactive reports are delivered immediately upon closing surveys, including the analysis of free-text responses. Reports are distributed based on the employee directory and can be tailored to individual managers or areas of the organization.

What are the long-term and short-term wins new customers can expect using this tool?

Short term—Organizations can immediately get a sense of how their employees currently feel about their work environment, leadership, and more. UltiPro Perception can uncover the organization’s strengths and key areas for improvement.

Long term—Organizations can utilize UltiPro’s workforce intelligence solutions, including UltiPro Perception, to uncover people challenges, predict outcomes, and recommend actions to drive better business results. Additionally, leaders can use historical benchmarking to assess how engagement scores are changing over time, in order to identify trends or patterns and determine long-term strategies to improve workplace culture and make better business and people decisions.

When will UltiPro Perception be available?

UltiPro Perception is currently available for purchase.

What is the approximate cost of the product?

UltiPro solutions are priced on a per employee, per month basis and costs various depending on a variety of factors, including company size.

Is there training or train-the-trainer opportunities available for organizations that need more?

Ultimate’s activation team guides all new customers through setup and configuration and Ultimate’s experts will also guide customers through executing and analyzing their first survey. UltiPro Perception is simple to configure and use, but if customers would like additional assistance Ultimate’s Services team will provide additional support to ensure customers are getting the most out of UltiPro Perception’s powerful survey and analytics capabilities. Ultimate also offers free learning resources for all organizations and their employees, including on-demand online training, webcasts, and more. Through Ultimate’s unique “People First” approach to customer service, all Ultimate’s customers have instant access to customer service experts, including a dedicated account manager and phone and online support.

You may be asking how you give a voice to the voiceless utilizing technology like UltiPro Perception. Here’s how you begin:

  • Audit your company culture to uncover both intended and unintended practices that may deter employees from openly sharing their feelings and thoughts.
  • Continue to find ways to include employees and their input in all aspects of your company’s operations
  • Ensure that there are simple and varied ways for your employees to connect and communicate with you.
  • Utilize sentiment analysis and machine learning technologies like UltiPro Perception to help you properly synthesize the valuable feedback you collect from your employees on a regular basis.
  • Make sure you are prepared to act upon the information you receive and make sure all levels of management do the same. It isn’t just about acquiring a solution like UltiPro Perception to help uncover this information. You actually have to be willing to make the necessary changes as needed to ensure your employees feel heard.

Organizations can no longer afford to ignore all of the data points available to them. Employees are communicating in a myriad of ways all the time. It’s time we start to listen to them.

Get a sneak peek of Perception via UltiPro’s product tour .

Also, Ultimate Software will be hosting a free webcast on April 25th for you to learn more about this product. To register, click here.

HR Technology Solution Provides Customers with More Options: A Look Inside Lanteria HR

Image courtesy of Lanteria HR.

Image courtesy of Lanteria HR.

Campaign/FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored product review. I will receive compensation for this post. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from.  I am not formally employed by Lanteria HR. All thoughts and viewpoints are created and written by me. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

One of the things that has bothered me from the very beginning with certain HR Technology solutions is the lack of flexibility. Sure, they all preach about how flexible their solutions are; but analysts who have been through their share of implementations can attest to a different reality.

We have been able to convince most of the HR industry that having technology to streamline and/or facilitate their internal processes has some substantial wins where both productivity and consistency are concerned. Now that we have their attention, it would seem that we need to meet them where their customer journey begins.

As someone who has worked in HR previously, I know that the customer journey towards purchasing HR Technology isn’t often a proactive decision; but rather a reactive decision that commonly results from several, separate, yet connected pain points with processes and/or home-grown systems. There are usually work-arounds for the work-arounds and systems that don’t speak to one another which causes inefficiency and frustration for those doing the work. When your solution arrives on the scene to save the day, the single, most impactful thing you can provide is a flexible solution.

Although there is plenty variation in customer needs, most HR professionals will agree there are some basic needs that can be extrapolated across our industry.

Here are a few of them:

  • HR professionals prefer a solution that is has the capacity to scale accordingly with business as it continues to grow.
  • HR professionals prefer a solution that is intuitive, can incorporate their company lexicon and doesn’t require a lot advanced training or thinking to utilize it.
  • HR professionals expect the solution to make their jobs easier.

Recently, I had the pleasure of getting an inside look into a solution I was unfamiliar with called: Lanteria HR. Lanteria HR is a global HR Management (HRM) solution best suited for mid-sized to large companies. They currently service companies with as little as 50 employees up to 20,000 employees.  If you are an Office 365 customer/fan, you will love the way Lanteria HR integrates with SharePoint and the Office 365 product. Lanteria HR is a SharePoint-based system which means you will enjoy the personalization of roles as it integrates well with Microsoft Office. Lanteria HR prides itself on their ability to meet their customers’ configurations needs without expensive software customization.

Lanteria HR has 9 functional areas that you can utilize via the various modules delivered via the solution.

The functional areas Lanteria HR covers are: Core HR, Time & Attendance, Compensation, Recruiting, Onboarding, Performance Management, Learning, Succession Planning and Reports.  You will find that each of the five modules in the solution allow for easy toggling back and forth without issue.

When it comes to user roles there are three within the solution. There are the Core HR users better known as “Super Users”.  Then, there are the roles of “manager” and “employee”. Lanteria’s team can also create custom roles depending on your organizational structure needs. During my testing, it was great to simply change existing organizational charts; but also to be able to create new departmental and group-specific hierarchies as your organization changes and scales.

Learning & Development has a special place in my heart

With a natural focus on retention being prevalent in the HR sphere, technology that can facilitate the ongoing process as well as the roll-out of programs to a large number of people will become important.

In Lanteria HR’s Learning Development module, every employee has a development plan and profile. They have delivered reports that track L&D milestones. In addition, you have the ability to deliver and L&D training directly from the solution.

Types of training that you can have in this system are: E-Learning SCORM courses, Video, Homegrown Training Programs, MP4 files and/or links to training hosted on the internet (i.e. Vimeo or YouTube).

Where Succession Planning is concerned, I like that they focus heavily on career pathing, internal talent pools and delivering career goals at all three role levels through their dashboards within the module.

What does implementation look like?

Implementation for Lanteria HR is about 2-3 months from the time a contract is awarded. There are once a week meetings where you will meet with your assigned project manager and engineer. It is recommended that you have at least 1-2 people internally that can serve as your implementation team.  All training is delivered remotely via the train-the-trainer method.

What do their Service Level Agreements (SLA) look like?

Lanteria HR allocates engineering time as part of your licensing package. Since your solution will can be  hosted on-premises or delivered as a SaaS solution, you will either rely on your internal IT Team or Lanteria’s team for resolution of any technical difficulties experienced.  Major updates happen 1-2 times a year.  Lanteria’s support team troubleshoots technical issues when they’re related to Lanteria HR. If you experience issues with SharePoint, it should be resolved by your SharePoint administrator, IT team or anyone who manages your SharePoint.

What about pricing?

Lanteria HR charges per license/module. All fees for licenses include the cost of the license and implementation. Prices will vary as they serve customers internationally. You will need to contact them to be properly priced-out based on your company, team and needs.

All in all, if you are looking for a solution that has the capability of being delivered on-premises or in the cloud; with greater flexibility, personalization and control over your next HRM solution Lanteria HR is worth a look. It is simple, does all of the things that we as HR practitioners need to do in a day, plus has some extras that can help us drive the proper messaging and programming around Recruitment, Retention and Succession Planning.

Want to see the latest version of Lanteria HR? Check out there short feature tour here.

Get know Lanteria via their product overview below:

 

 

Beware Knowledge-Poaching Leaders

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Two years ago, I wrote an article about things I needed CHRO’s to know about what the organization needs from them. I wanted them to know what kind of leaders their employees deserve. I find myself wanting to have this discussion again after yet another anecdote about an ill-equipped CHRO.

I have often heard that leaders don’t need to be knowledgeable in every facet of their employees’ work to be effective. That may well be true in some scenarios. However, it is my belief that time spent in the trenches is valuable not only for the purpose of understanding what your employees go through – but also so you bring something other than a title to the table when you are called to it.

Some of the best leaders I have known have worked their way from the bottom to the C-Suite. I also know people that haven’t held every role on their way to the top, but are relentless about rolling up their sleeves and keeping themselves current on all things HR. As a business owner, I  know what I know and I know what I don’t know. As such, I seek out the people and resources that are needed to help me execute my tasks and business goals. I may not be an expert in everything, but I am willing to learn and/or I research what I don’t know so I can have an intelligent conversation about the work that needs to be done.

Here’s a thought…

Don’t become a leader , if you choose to be a figurehead rather than a team member. The world can use less people who look the part versus fitting the part. Personally, I have had enough of watching people in the C-Suite sitting in meetings and town halls completely oblivious to what is going on in their organizations. It isn’t becoming to not understand the basic tenets of your niche – when it is that very expertise that you got you hired for the job in the first place. It is equally uncool to take credit for your teams knowledge and expertise.

Experts often say you shouldn’t be working in your business day-to-day as a CEO. I both agree and disagree with this sentiment. I know that going forward I will need to delegate work so I can work on business development and other aspects of my business. Conversely, I have been all things in my business out of both necessity and utility. I now know what has to be done in all aspects of my business and how it should be done.  It would be impossible for me to provide the proper direction and vision to a future employee – without having experienced being in their shoes.

Additionally, if my team members bring something new or innovative to my work that was previously overlooked by me, I have a duty to give them the credit for their effort and ideas. Being a knowledge-poacher is not only disingenuous, it is a morale killer.

Put yourself in the place of one of your employees for a second. Think about how exhilarating  it is to think you have come up with a solution to an issue or to know that you created a unique program or initiative. Imagine the pride you would feel as an employee to hand the deliverable off to a manager or leader realizing its potential for recognition by the right people – only to have said leader take credit for your work. How would you feel?

As a leader, you don’t have to know it all or be everything to everyone. You do have a duty to ensure that your employees efforts and great ideas are recognized. You are not less of a leader, because your employees excel at things you don’t. If you are a knowledge-poaching leader take a good, long look at yourself.  Heed the following warnings because this is your plight:

1) Employees who are victims of knowledge-poaching leaders eventually move on to greener pastures where their talent can not be hidden (I am proof of this).  This likely means high turnover for your organization.

2) When the victims of your poaching do move on, everything will eventually crumble around you. It only takes that one key employee to leave for the weakest links to be exposed. This run of hiding behind other people’s talent never lasts indefinitely.

3) Your poaching affects all of your employees whether they are the ones being poached or not. In the case of one of my colleagues, he questions the ethical, moral, and organizational ramifications of not speaking-up in defense of a co-worker whose knowledge, expertise and efforts are being poached. 

True leaders aren’t insecure because their teams are strong. They celebrate the strength of the team with pride and acknowledgement.

Don’t be a knowledge-poaching leader!

 

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