Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
The shortage of documented financial or performance results for diversity programs makes it difficult to determine what works and what doesn’t. Are there any models for companies to follow? Not yet, says Guillermo Hysaw, vice president of diversity for Toyota Motor Sales, USA. Hysaw, who is managing his company’s newly announced 10-year, $7.8 billion diversity initiative, freely admits that he’s not sure whom to benchmark against. "Nobody is doing an outstanding job in diversity," he says. Here’s a brief look at how five companies--all among the largest and most successful in their industries--structure and evaluate their diversity programs.
Ryder System, Inc. Ryder, a logistics, supply-chain, and transportation giant, runs an extensive diversity program for its 30,000 employees. Ryder measures the return on its program by tracking litigation costs and the number of women and members of minority groups hired and promoted in key jobs throughout the company. "Since the initiation of these programs, litigation costs have dropped dramatically," says Gerri Rocker, director of corporate diversity for the Miami-based company. The company uses a scorecard for each business unit that includes a diversity component, with specific targets for hiring and promoting women and people of color. Senior leadership bonuses are tied to meeting these targets.Ryder requires diversity training for all employees that "focuses on respecting and valuing all aspects of employees’ beliefs and backgrounds, not only differences of race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, but also individual talents, ideas, and experiences," says Rocker. "Differences are seen as working assets, which enhance Ryder’s credibility, business operations, and customer service." An additional round of training for all managers and supervisors promotes skills for managing differences within heterogeneous groups and pushing employees toward quality performance. The program also teaches litigation avoidance by describing scenarios and behaviors that put the company at risk of lawsuits and advising how to prevent them.
Goldman Sachs Group. "Our senior executives have said that diversity is a strategic imperative," says Laura Liswood, senior adviser for diversity at the New York-based investment banking firm. "At Goldman, it’s assumed that diversity is a good business practice, and we put a lot of resources into it." Goldman Sachs’ diversity program includes a centralized staff of half a dozen people, plus senior leaders within each division. The company relies on its in-house staff and rarely calls in consultants. "It takes a lot of looking within an organization’s diversity program to find the challenges, and most consultants can’t get under the skin of an organization to that level," Liswood says. "It has to be a largely internal process." Goldman includes a diversity component in performance evaluations and assessments of corporate leaders, with results reflected in their compensation.
Price, Waterhouse, Coopers. The world’s largest accounting firm, with headquarters in New York City and 125,000 employees, sees diversity as a marketing imperative. "We find that more and more of our clients are demanding that our partners and staff--involved in securing new business as well as delivering the work--reflect the diversity within their organizations," says Toni Riccardi, chief diversity officer. "It is as much a part of the price of admission for winning and sustaining new business as other core differentiating factors. We measure our return on investment against very specific metrics focused on recruiting, retention of our top performers, and employee satisfaction."
New York Life Insurance. New York Life, the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States, runs an extensive diversity program focused on recruitment and retention of minority candidates. "The human resources department establishes annual diversity goals in each department and, with the help of diversity officers in each unit, monitors a department’s hiring and promotional activity," says Angela Coleman, vice president of human resources. An executive management committee tracks diversity objectives by reviewing monthly and quarterly reports for each unit. Diversity is one of 15 components in performance evaluations for managers. "It’s hard to quantify financial results," Coleman says. "We don’t approach diversity in terms of a dollar return on investment."
Cendant Corporation. Cendant, a vast real estate services company, launched its diversity program as part of a broader "employer of choice" initiative. The company appointed a diversity committee commissioned by the CEO, and then named a vice president for diversity in 2002. "Each of our business units has at least one representative who is responsible for diversity initiatives," says Kathy Andreasen, vice president of human resources for the New York City-based company. "The return on the resources dedicated to this effort is measured in number of hires, the volume of our services that are provided by minority suppliers, the volume of business generated by our multicultural marketing initiatives, the number of minority franchisees, and other measures."
Monday, January 15, 2007
- Human beings are unique, not applicable. No two human beings are alike. Each person has his or her own personality. Likewise, the organization gets distinctive contributions from its people. So, when an employee talks about being treated like a machine or a robot, he or she means, in part, that the employer doesn't recognize what makes each individual special. The organization cannot apply one relationship with all its employees. It should act in a way that indicate care, respect, and valuing people as people.
- A human being is self-determining, not programmable. Human being can initiate and control their own actions within the constraints of social or organizational constraints. Both the objectives and priorities of the the organization must be accommodated. A kind of an 'organizational behavior' or rather a 'desired' one is developed. People who feel like a robot are suggesting they feel no latitude for their own initiative. They are merely following orders, with no ability to do tasks as they wish to do them. They are controlled, programmed by others, but a controlled workplace takes its toll, after a while, on the people working for the organization. When people are stifled, even their health suffers.
- A human being, unlike a robot, is also capable of intelligence and has an emotional life. If people are treated as if they are mindless, their sense of dignity often refuses to let them play the roles they are given. Even though the workplace often dehumanizes people in this way, they find countless means to hold on to their sense of self-worth. Sometimes they do it by inventing games with themselves to make the work itself more interesting. Or they daydream on the job. Or they socialize with others. Or they find ways of subverting the boss.
- Unlike robots which are limited by their programs, human beings grow and learn. Humans never stop acquiring knowledge and skills. In good workplaces, human growth is part of the system. Jobs are expanded as people gain more skill. People are given more responsibilities as they grow. The best workplace not only treat people as their most important assets, but they also learn how to call forth the best attributes from what a human being is-a creature that flourishes with trust. Conversely, to withhold trust is to dehumanize and to bring out the worst in people.
Having the above in mind, I tend to believe that if an organization wants to breed future leaders, the starting point for it is to build its culture on valuing people as a strategic asset and a competitive advantage. An organization of only managers who are competent in moving day to day business, and are well briefed in policies and procedures, could be 'one of the others,' but establishing market leadership is a completely different ball game.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
However, going through Fortune's analysis of the best 100 companies to work for in the US will reveal that there are some core organizational values that are embedded into successful organizations which attract and sustain employees and ensure their job satisfaction. The most important of these values are:
- It may sound strange, but friendliness appears to be one of the distinguishing characteristics of good workplaces. People seem to enjoy each other's company. this is not an insignificant issue. Work for an organization is, after all, work in a group setting. You have to interact with others, and naturally what you think about your workplace has to do largely with the quality of those interactions.
- There is one expression that we repeatedly hear at good workplaces: "There isn't much politics around here." By that, people mean employees aren't constantly jockeying for position, trying to curry favor with the high-ups, worrying about the impact of their actions on their chances for moving up in the company, or looking over their shoulder to make sure someone else isn't setting them up to destroy their career.
- Good workplaces also offer a dramatic contrast to business as usual in most of the organizations that create an atmosphere of unfairness. It's extremely difficult to fool people into believing they are being treated fairly when they're not. Employees can easily note examples of favoritism, bias, inequity, and abuse, even if they do not express their outrage.
- Because we often define our personal identity by our work, work becomes one of the principal means through which life becomes meaningful. Employees of good workplaces describe describe their job satisfaction in sentences like: "you can have an impact on things here." The organizations they work for makes them feel that they matter, they are valued, and so are their ideas and opinion about how things are around them in the workplace. Some employees, expressing what they feel about their work more philosophically: "'It is more than a job."
- Employees can always cherish a caring, nurturing environment in the workplace. They talk about how supervisors take an interest in their personal lives. They talk a lot about how they feel valued as individuals, not just as part of an undifferentiated mass that performs tasks for the organization. A feeling of a 'long-term commitment' where they feel belonging to a family for life would always remain gratifying to most employees.
- Naturally, a feeling of mutual trust between employees and their employers permeates good workplaces. It nurtures a atmosphere of job security around the workplace. It also cultivates a culture of 'togetherness' and 'ownership' in the workplace.
Looking at the above rationale on good workplaces we will notice that they are all personal, people focused. They satisfy needs of recognition, belonging, and self-esteem. They do not, of course, belittle the value of other tangible organizational motivating aspects like compensation, benefits, bonuses, and incentives, but to most employees, they have both priority and precedence when a decision to accept a job offer is made.
Friday, January 12, 2007
- A key officer in a project left during a critical phase of the project, and a replacement had to be found as soon as possible. As situation which might dictate what I call 'convenience hiring' rather than 'appropriate hiring.'
- Relying on recruitment agencies without a partnership input on the part of the client nor proper insurance guarantees of replacement of any misfits after field trying them.
- Wrong job matching, where a new hire is given the job he wanted not the job he could master. Some candidates can give an impression of mastery and false energy levels that deceive corporate decision makers.
- Man/day arrangements with clients may sometimes push for filling a position with unqualified personnel to give the appearance that all organizational contractual commitments are met.
- Lack of training to key position holders to cope with organizational growth and changes as well as customers' needs. That happens when their bosses are too busy to apply and implement a development plan to enhance both the skill and competencies of the holders of those critical positions. They had relied on them long enough on moving day-to-day matters to become indispensable even for a few days workshop to whet their efficiency and effectiveness.
- Relocating corporate personnel for personal or humane reasons are sometimes reasons for jobs mismatch where unqualified personnel hold jobs 'similar' to what they are doing at their home country simply because the corporation cannot find another job back home for them.
- Reaching a 'career plateau' when 'some old timers' could not advance any more in their current jobs and had few years to retire, and the corporation is helping them qualify for full pension.
- The wrong concept that HR personnel are the only people who should have training on interviewing techniques, and thus neglecting the importance of giving the same training to all the other line managers in the organization, despite the fact that they take the final decision for hiring.
- Lucky people who know the right corporate contacts who help them land job opportunities and sell themselves as long waited for saviors who are able to clean up corporate messes.
The impact of wrong choice is sometimes devastating to the extent that those 'wrong-fits' cause good calibre people in the organization to quit; meanwhile, they do not allow 'good-fits' being hired which results - the the long run - in 'drying up' corporate intellectual capital and a quick down slide of the organizational performance.
Amateurs trying to play professional games are very dangerous. I know of many cases where unqualified corporate officers were interviewing professional qualified potential job candidates for vital projects, but instead of attracting them to accept the jobs, had created very negative impressions and caused them to reconsider changing jobs, and turned down the job opportunities they had prior the interview. Those 'corporate Birds' could scare highly professional people that they might end up reporting to one of those who might turn their lives into a frustrating miserable experience. It is a vicious circle that, if turned into a whirlwind, may drag any organization to a fathomless depths of failure.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
This belief is based on two assumptions. First, we live in an age when dramatic personal change is required of all of us. Second, systematically, learning from experience is the best means at our disposal for changing in the ways we need to. the problem is that learning from experience is not automatic, either for individuals or for society. It is all too natural for people and organizations, or even civilizations, to make the same mistakes over and over again. What happens consistently is that people don't notice when chance is required. To actually learn something new from experience requires an intentional and disciplined effort.
In today's corporate life, and because the world around us is changing so profoundly, the least adaptive among us are being ruthlessly weeded out-professionally, emotionally, and even physically. In order to be able to learn, to consciously change and improve your patterns of behavior, will dramatically increase your personal effectiveness.
Many of us today, are faced with the need to learn some of the most important lessons of our lives.Professionally, the learning mandate, ranges from such matters as how to lead a team how to influence people you are not the boss of, how to take on one more project when you are booked solid. Personally, most of us are dealing with such issues as the need to find more constructive resolutions to conflict in intimate relationships, raising children in an age when the stakes of peer pressure are higher than ever, finding calm in the midst of stress.
If you choose to accept the mission of profiting from your experience , the profit you realize will come from the creative tension that steady discipline brings about. To understand the kind of tension I am talking about, hold a rubber band between your two hands, and stretch it tight by moving your right hand away. Move as far with your right hand as you can without breaking the rubber band. Feel the tension. the rubber band is a metaphor for life. Think of your left hand as the status quo, your circumstances as they presently exist. Think of your right hand as the direction in which you would like to move. Now, relax the tension on the rubber band by moving only one hand. Once again, you made a decision. Your hands didn't decide. The rubber band didn't decide. Did you go to the left or the right?
The natural choice, by the way, is to let the right hand move back to the left, the status quo. Nobody likes to change. Why fix what ain's broke? You now have to think about something else: was the decision not to change a good one, or should you reconsider? This choice, too, is yours alone. You can't avoid making choices. Having this kind of internal conversation can change your life. It reflects heightened consciousness and persistent self-reflection. We control our destinies in direct proportion to our self-awareness. Two thousand years ago a Chinese sage, Lao Tsu, put it this way: "Those who know much about others may be smart, but those who understand themselves are even wiser. Those who control many may be powerful, but those who have mastered themselves are more powerful still."
Most of us don't learn useful things from our experience, at least not consistently. Our learning is often by accident, and it doesn't come easily. We often learn dysfunctional behaviors-hating or blaming other people, being depressed. What we want, of course, is to learn how to think and behave in ways that accomplish our purposes with grace and flexibility.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Monday, January 08, 2007
- One of my students once told me with a distorted face (he was still feeling the anguish of the moment after several months) that he had prepared a report on how to enhance the marketing of a new brand. He then went to see his manager and presented the report to him and waited for him to read it. He expected to be commended on a several days hard work to do his research and put his ideas together into what he thought to be a balanced report. After reading the first two paragraphs of the report, the manager, without saying a single word, turned to a shredder he had near him and fed it with the report.
- While I was instructing a workshop on 'strategic HR' to a group of managers, few of them were very bitter commenting on the positive examples I gave on people oriented managers who respect and try to satisfy their people's needs. They said they have never heard a word of recognition from their managers for the last year. All they heard was criticism and expressions of disappointment without enough explanation or giving them a chance to discuss.
- In some companies I visited to conduct a 'gap analysis' I was surprised to find out that employees performance evaluation was not discussed with them. In some cases the employees' were invited to only sign their performance evaluation reports which became a routine meaningless action.
- In other cases the performance evaluation form does not include a developmental part where employees' areas of improvement are noted, discussed, and a plan is drawn and agreed upon between the employee and his/her manager.
- Some managers, instead of expressing their concern about their employees' performance, cut themselves off them as an expression of their disappointment.
- Managers, in some cases that came to my attention, 'throw their employees to the wolves' when a deficiency occurs, even if they were a direct outcome of carrying out the manager's instruction.
- Organizational politics are sometimes so high to the extent that employees find themselves obliged to join a band wagon in order to survive. Some managers feel more strong having more people acting as their mouthpiece.
- One of the extreme examples is when the manager compete with his team members, and try to belittle their value when they express their wish to pursue their studies getting higher degrees. They overload them with work to the extend that they do not find time to study or prepare for their examinations. Even when they try to apply some of their learned skills on the job, they were not allowed to do so.
- Playing members of their teams against each other is a game some managers play as a way of knowing what is going on. They foster a culture of individuality and selfishness and become a referee who exercises more control over his employees.
the above example emphasize the importance of selection and hiring of employees as well as the danger of promoting unqualified personnel to managerial levels where they acquire more power and influence over people's behaviors and attitudes. It also emphasizes the strategic role of HR as a business partner in the organization, and not just a service function that provides the other functions with the services they need.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Xers with high human capital, technical skills, education, learning and experience are valuable to organizations, and they are in demand: " Never have so few been wanted by so many" (Zemke et al., 2000). Those most in demand, the new "gold-collar workers", are educated, smart, creative, computer literate and equipped with portable skills (Munk, 1998). Indeed, they are free agents, and thus are perceived by life-long employees of an earlier generation as being disloyal, arrogant, unfocused, unwilling to pay dues and not amenable to deferred gratification (Tulgan, 1996). Om fact, Xers are preparing for careers, not for tenure in a specific organization and, since they cannot hope for career-long support from the organization, they are increasingly career-self-reliant. The "technologically savvy, fickle, ultra mobile generation X workforce" (Harari, 1998) values self-advancement over corporate advancement. They view their human capital as personal, not corporate, assets.
Since, on average, GenXers change jobs frequently, on average every 18 months (Kronenebers, 1997), an new reality has emerged with regard to firm-and industry- specific knowledge. While long-term boomer employees may be proficient in firm-specific private knowledge, the mobile Xers bring with them knowledge from a member of firms and both wide and deep human capital, but they are likely to take information from the organization with them when they leave. In fact, the challenge to knowledge management is to increase the company's intellectual capital despite the "industry-jumping, extremely mobile employee" (Vollmer and Phillips, 2000). How does KM minimize leakage out and absorb leakage in? Retaining staff amy be an answer. Certainly the challenges to retain the contributions all staff - permanent, temporary, contingent, long-term, short-term- to the intellectual capital of the organization.
Reciprocity between value and values is emerging as a solution to align corporate and personal capital. Xers seek variety, relevancy, stimulation and constant change. They value involvement and challenge, and making money for stockholders is not a challenge they embrace. I the employee is to add value in the form of human intellectual capital to the company, the company must reciprocate. Otions are a solution, collective rewards based on the value of the company as a whole, they implicitly encouraged sharing as well as amassing individual knowledge (Browning, 1999). KM of what " everyone knows" is supported if the new knowledge workers add their personal knowledge to the corporate knowledge bank.
If an organization values knowledge, it must value knowledge workers. Adding value to the organization and sharing the value with the knowledge worker more closely aligns the value, valuation and ownership of knowledge.
From an organizational perspective, Platt's dilemma at HP highlights the difficulty of placing a value on corporate knowledge. For an organization, value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. An organization's knowledge is valued as it is perceived, often from outside the organization. Recent dramatic stock market value is perceived, especially when the beholders are stockholders or potential stockholders.
In financial circles, analysis attempt to measure the stock market's valuation of intellectual capital - the present value of the future benefits to be obtained from intellectual capital (Lynn, 2000). In technology stocks, the vast gaps between book and market values highlight the value placed on intellectual capital, on knowledge possessed by the firm and, more tangentially, by employees of the firm. To date, generally accepted accounting principles generally accept no specific calculation to determine the value of knowledge. Knowledge is, however, valued in stock prices, a firm's market value if not its book value.
Globally, potential partners value knowledge in considering whether to engage in relationships. Hitt et al. (2000) studied partnerships between companies in developed and developing nations. Companies in developing countries seek partners willing to share expertise, while companies in developed countries seek partners with unique competencies and local market knowledge. The transfer of local market knowledge is directly dependent on organizational learning processes and the value attributed to such local market knowledge (Lord and Ranft, 2000) Partnerships are made with an eye to growing, developing and expanding organizational knowledge. The value of knowledge is critical to partners.
Individuals value knowledge, but general for personal, not corporate reasons. Corporate acquisitions, mergers, reorganizations, downsizing, rightsizing and restructuring have affected attitudes of staff. In the current economy, a permanent employee is an oxymoron (Greco, 1998). Consequently, individuals may view knowledge as a source of power, as leverage or as a guarantee of continued employment. In these respects, knowledge has value for the.
There are, then at least four perspectives from which the value of knowledge can be perceived: the organization; its shareholders; its current and potential partners; and individuals within the organization. Since knowledge is an intangible asset, it cannot be valued objectively nor precisely by any of these four, and this confounds the issue further.
- Capital deepening - individual workers have improved their performance of particular skills.
- Capital widening - individual workers have exhibited an increased ability to acquire a variety of skills (Lindbeck and Snower, 2000).
Human capital, however, while contributing to the value of the organization, remains the possession of the individual. Individuals can and do learn, develop and acquire knowledge both independently and with the organization. In order to learn, they require neither organizational assets nor organizational capital, yet they can, and do, learn from their experience in the organization. The organization, conversely, cannot develop, learn, or grow independently of its human capital.
Organizational Knowledge and Learning
Knowledge is recognized as a corporate asset and, like all corporate assets, it must be managed: thus, the emergence of KM. Ideally, KM captures, transfers, and leverages what everyone in the organization know. This, of course, is a daunting challenge. Who is "everyone in the organization", and how does the organization manage their knowledge , their human capital, thus transforming it into organizational intellectual capital?
Intellectual capital extends beyond mere knowledge: Stewart (1997) identifies three categories of intellectual capital:
- Human (evidenced in staff's knowledge, skills and talents).
- Structured (comprised of systems for codifying, storing, transmitting and sharing knowledge).
- Relational (resulting from connections between organizations and clients, vendors and partners).
- Filter out information that does not support an individual's immediate or long-term need or goal.
- Present information in the form appropriate for the context and the individual needing the information.
- Focus information into the hands of those who can act upon it and give it value (Covley-Durst, 1999).
The last item is the crux: until it is acted upon, knowledge has no real value. Until a human puts knowledge to use, it is an un-valued asset. Until a human shares tacit and explicit knowledge within the firm., it is the individual's human capital, not the organizaions's. The knowledge possessed by the employees represents a key source of sustainable competitive advantage for organizations (Elsdon and Iyer, 1999). Knowledge is an asset, but it is a slippery asset to value, manage and measure.
Perceptions of knowledge differ according to what one considers the repository of knowledge: the individual or the organization. Knowledge as an asset in an organization results from efforts by knowledge workers, individuals in whose heads knowledge resides. Individuals bring knowledge with them to the workplace, knowledge they have acquired through education, training and experience, and, if they leave the workplace, they take with them additional knowledge acquired there. their leaving behind any personal knowledge depends on whether the organization has transformed it into organizational knowledge.
Organizational knowledge has been codified, stored and managed - it is explicit, systematic and easily communicated in the form of hard data and codified procedures (Inkpen, 2ii6). This contrasts with personal internalized, tacit knowledge (Polani, 1967).
Tacit knowledge involves intangible factors embedded in personal beliefs, experiences and values. Internalized, tacit knowledge is not easily communicated or even readily acknowledged by those who possess it. Organizations draw on individuals' tacit knowledge when they develop and implement explicit knowledge. Nonaka (1994) writes of the spiral of knowledge creation, whereby individuals, then groups, then organizations as a whole, convert tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge.
As an organization builds and expands its knowledge base, both tacit and explicit, it builds its intellectual capital and, consequently, enhances its competitive advantage. Knowledge becomes a competitive asset, especially knowledge which is firm-specific, private knowledge - in particular patents, copyrights and 'secret' procedures. However, as best practices are disseminated within an industry, they become public knowledge (Matusik & Hill, 1998) As individuals master firm-specific best practices, such knowledge becomes portable -a part of an individual's as well as the firm's human capital. Part of the knowledge and experience a new hire may bring to a firm is private knowledge from a prior workplace, just as he or she may transport such knowledge from a firm when he or she moves on to a new employer.