This week I am attending KnmowledgeAdvisors’ 7th Annual Analytics Symposium. KnowledgeAdvisors is a great company focused both on its own and its clients’ business success and the advancment of human capital management as a business discipline. Wednesday’s opening Keynote was delivered by Cedric Coco from Lowe’s Companies. He posed and answered the question: How do we measure the value of, then optimize our company’s most strategic asset…our employees? Cedric described the Human Capital Business Model he and his team have built, and are continuing to develop. He begins with the view that people are the largest unmanaged asset in a company. “Unmanaged” doesn’t mean there are no managers: it does mean that companies do not have enough specific knowledge of the role people play in the company’s value proposition to effectively manage the recruitment, hiring, onboarding, engagement, development, and assessment of their people. The idea - which will be further developed today and tomorrow by Heather Maitre, Chris Hardy, Tom Davenport, Laurie Bassi, Dave Vance, Jac Fitz-enz, and Nick Bontis - is that people create value and those who invest in people create greater market value than those who don’t. The key, of course, is defining what precisely to invest in. So, Cedric’s team has done a lot of work and have determined: (a) that the factor that correlates very highly with specific business results like revenue, customer satisfaction, and lower costs is “employee engagement”; and (b) that there are very specific factors that constitute “engagement” in their company. They now know that if they invest in A, B, and C they can optimize engagement, and that engagement optimized to a specific measured level will produce a predictable level of revenue, customer satisfaction, and cost. This basic Human Capital Business Model is now the foundation of a very specific HR strategy, a focused creation of a specific employee experience, and an analytics strategy that will keep the company on top of changes in the factors that drive engagement and business results. Interestingly, Cedric and his team have also drilled down into the “employee experience” element in their strategy and, through lifecycle research, have defined what that experience should be like at each phase of the emploment lifecycle and how to measure it: acquisition, onboarding, engagement, and transition (to another role, to another company, or to retirement).It’s terrific to see such a disciplined approach to defining, developing, and rewarding the specific roles people play that drive specific business outcomes. As a bonus, Josh Bersin (Bersin & Associates) concluded the day with a view of trends and issues in the L&D and Talent Management worlds. The sad aspect of Josh’s research is how few companies have set goals for themselves to manage the acquisition, engagement, development, and retention of their most strategic asset…their employees. By the way, Josh published a book last year titled The Training Management Book. Josh has developed a framework for planning, managing, and measuring any intervention designed to improve the performance of people in a business. While it focuses specifically on training, you can immediately see how you can use the framework for other change initiatives. I highly recommend Josh’s book to all HR professionals.
Posts Tagged ‘Performance’
My last two posts have been about managing performance through The Accountability Principle. It would be helpful - but not absolutely necessary - to read them before this post: Accountability - The Key to Performance Management posted April 29th and The Accountability Principle and Engagement posted April 30th.The antithesis of The Accountability Principle is The No-Nonsense School of Accountability. No-Nonsenseers have advocated performance management as it has been practiced at least since the 1960s. Managers give clear expectations up front, a thorough performance appraisal at the end, and regular feedback, maybe even some coaching, in between. If someone’s really off track, managers confront that right away. For top performers, there are rewards and recognition along the way. For poor performers, there is progressive discipline. For the rest, well, they have their pay checks and get to keep their jobs. What could be clearer and fairer and more motivating? The reality is that performance management is a fiction for the vast majority of people in the vast majority of businesses.
The beginning of the process - clear expectations or objectives and measures - often never happens except in general terms. When it does, it is seldom sustained because it is too difficult and time consuming to resolve all the questions that more systematic approaches call for:
Are these the right things to do to make the strategy successful? What’s actually being measured? Is that the right thing to measure? How accurate are the measures? How timely are the measures? Is the goal even achievable? What if unexpected forces make the goal either too easy or unattainable? What about all the things people do that are not measured but are critical to keeping everything running, how are these accounted for?
The middle of the process - performance feedback, and maybe coaching - seldom gets done because of the complexities of the business and the environment in which it operates.
Ambiguity delays judgment. Communication struggles with interpretation, completeness, and timeliness. Collaboration falters under the pressure of adversarial motives and contending views. New knowledge emerges that changes the playing field. Priorities change frequently and occasionally radically. Resources are reduced or diverted to meet new objectives. The measures chosen turn out not to achieve the real goal. Important aspects of the business are neglected to the detriment of the business in order to “make the numbers”.
The one piece of the process that eventually does get done is the performance review. But, this is usually viewed by both parties as an administrative requirement. There is very little accountability in this annual event because the beginning and middle parts of the process either have never happened or were pro forma or occasional at best.
Often expectations or objectives are written down for the first time when the performance review is due, and the past year is recollected from whatever reports or memory is available. Some organizations have feedback collected from people affected by an individual’s performance. But the biases of memory and the power of emotion and personal perspective make useful, accurate evaluation rare. Managers regularly pick the “rating” they “feel” is right and write the narrative to support the rating. In any case, the best that this process produces is a point-in-time judgement that usually has some marginal effect on the expected rewards.
The reality of managing a business is that there are no clear beginnings or endings. We estimate various measures and the forces that will impact them; but none of this is science, and all of it is affected by new knowledge that regularly is discovered about the past, present, and future. Priorities change, resources are redirected. We arbitrarily evaluate results quarterly and annually. But the goals we project, the measures we set, and the data we collect are very often not in one-to-one alignment and have only an approximate relationship to one another. While goals are essential to frame expectations, develop plans, and calibrate the actions we need to take, few, if any, bear a readily assessable relationship to the clear meting out of rewards and punishments the No-Nonsense School of accountability advocates as the driver of performance.
No-Nonsense performance management is a relic of industrial organization and a command-and-control system of management. No-Nonsense performance management should be replaced by The Accountability Principle.
Accountability is a very weighty and quite personal concept. It is burdensome and liberating at the same time. The accounting it calls for is a first person accounting, not a disinterested bystander’s report. Accountability obliges the person in charge to tell her own story. And in the telling, she is expected to know clearly what she is trying to accomplish and why that’s important in the larger scheme of things. Starting with the results her actions have produced so far, she is expected to go deeper and give her analysis of what accounts for those results: what forces are at play and what she has done to manage those forces; where there are shortfalls or overruns and what she’s done to overcome their causes. She is expected to demonstrate that she is monitoring and evaluating what is going on all along the way: exercising judgment, seeking counsel, soliciting help and making adjustments to overcome unforeseen obstacles and to compensate for unintended consequences.
Interestingly, the rewards and losses associated with being an accountable person are many; and they are experienced every day, not just at the end of a project, or a quarter, or a year. That final payoff or loss is critically important because it affects a person’s possibilities - his future and his broader life beyond this job. It affects both reputation and wealth and, therefore, expands or contracts the horizons of his life - the things he can do and the interests he can explore. But, accountability is also an intensely emotional thing. A person experiences accountability as an energy welled up within him. He feels the pressure of that point in time when he’ll have to tell the story of what he’s done. He wants the story to be a good one, the story of a hero overcoming daunting forces. His awareness expands to take in everything affecting his goals and becomes keenly alert to threats and opportunities, with a hunger for all sorts of situational information. He feels concerned about other people: do they know their responsibilities and are they all doing their parts. He feels concerned for other people: how are they feeling about what they’re doing and how are they holding up when the pressure is on. He feels worried about resources: are there enough and are they being used well. His mind is a flow of checklist questions. Have all the right communications been made? Are all the parts of the job getting done? Are the customers satisfied? Will we meet our objectives? The accountable person experiences the emotional rewards and losses that are evoked by the multitude of step-by-step successes and failures as he carries out his mission. In fact, this is a major reason why the accountable person seeks out accountable jobs - to experience himself handling all of the challenges presented by the quest for some specific measure of success, important to himself and others. This experience of handling a myriad of challenges - sometimes not so successfully, but then recovering and learning for the next time - is as important to a person’s internal possibilities as the final financial and reputational rewards are to his external possibilities. It is in the day-to-day tests that a person comes to know his own internal horizons - his current and expanding capabilities.
So, accountability is a simple yet exceedingly powerful concept when used systematically throughout a business.
- It becomes the motive for people to achieve and maintain a big picture view - what are we trying to accomplish and how do all the parts fit together to make that happen.
- It becomes the motive for measurement of progress and results - how can you evaluate the situation without measures?
- It becomes the motive to develop and implement constructive changes in order to tell a story of success.
- It funnels all of the wisdom in the business to the transaction level as each person is in turn accountable to another.
- It becomes the network of conversations that drive the ongoing modification of strategy and redesign of processes to better pursue the overarching objective.
What do we mean by “accountability?” Today, when you hear people talk about accountability, you know that they’re talking about who’s going to pay the price of failure. They say, “I’m holding you accountable”; or “You better make sure someone’s accountable”; or “Make them accountable by tying those results to their incentive compensation.”
“Holding people accountable” has a hard-nosed, no-nonsense tone that lets people know that a real executive is in the room. It projects strength and a willingness to take action. It asserts that a clear threat of dire consequences is what will get people focused and performing. It calls for bottom-line measures and makes it clear that there will be no excuses for not achieving them. After all, what would accountability mean if people could avoid paying the price of poor performance by explaining it away?
This is, however, not the way accountability gets results. In the day-to-day activities of business, where all the work gets done, “hold them accountable” is useless as a management practice. It offers no guidance on how to use accountability to build a successful path from point A to point B. It just prescribes what to do with rewards and punishments when the clock runs out. It offers no process for reconciling competing objectives, for making sure bad decisions are not made just to make “the numbers” look good. It makes no provision for adapting to changing business conditions, taking advantage of opportunities, or responding to unforeseen threats. “Hold them accountable” hopes that fear of loss will make people perform. But “hope is not a method” (Gordon R. Sullivan and Michael V. Harper, Hope is Not a Method (New York: Broadway Books, 1997). The Accountability Principle is!
The Accountability Principle
“For any job, no matter how simple or complex, effectiveness will be proportional to the ability of people doing that job to explain what they are seeking to achieve, why that’s important to the business, how well they are doing and what’s causing their current level of accomplishment, and what needs to be different to fully achieve their purpose.”
Accountability fuels the engine of performance. It puts a fine edge on execution. It replaces the administrative rituals of performance management with engagement in the business and commitment to results. It fills the void of performance-focused communication with precise and continuing conversations about accomplishments and opportunities as well as about shortfalls and what needs to be done to overcome them. Accountability puts talent in the spotlight and exposes and corrects talent gaps early on.
The practice of “accountability” means that every person - either as an individual contributor or as a manager - is expected to “provide a periodic accounting” to someone - team leader, manager, board of directors, owner - about the results of what she is doing. The key questions to account for are:
- Are the business activities for which she is responsible achieving planned results or not?
- If they are, then what is driving that success and what needs to be done to sustain performance? Are there opportunities emerging and how can we take advantage of them?
- If they are not, then what are the root causes of the shortfall and what is she doing to remedy them? Are there threats emerging and how can we defend against them?
This use of The Accountability Principle moves the moment of truth way forward. By asking people to be accountable first for a well constructed plan and then regularly for accomplishing planned activities and producing planned results. The Accountability Principle improves the quality of business thinking and sharpens the focus on results from everybody beginning day one. Accountability establishes a regular dialogue so the person to whom the accounting is provided should be expected to
- ask questions to see if something has been overlooked
- provide information that will help solve a problem
- share a perspective that will shape more accurate thinking about a situation
- give encouragement where courage is needed
- stop a direction that will impede success
- obtain needed resources
- secure the support of others
Simply put, accountability is about two things: collaboration and engagement. Your thoughts?
More about this tomorrow.
The world of Web 2.0 grows out of the view that learning is a process of active inquiry not passive reception. You reach out to the environment around you to fill knowledge and skill gaps. Training, on the other hand, is something done to you. You submit to someone else’s course of instruction. Courses take too long, don’t produce enough competitive value, and are mostly useful to provide a general framework for ongoing experiential, real time, on-demand learning. Nonetheless, sometimes, in your active inquiry, you choose a course as your way to learn.
Experiential learning puts the emphasis on individual and group learning, not expert teaching. The core of experiential learning is the ability to ask the right questions at the right time to: to clarify the nature of the problem; to identify possible solutions; to take action; and to learn from feedback after taking action. The community replaces the course as people learn through conversation, demonstration, trial and error, collaboration, and discovery. A key theme of the employment brand is learning in an apprenticeship model - learning in context. eLearning’s value is not the automation of the classroom and the student role. It envisions learning in context from a network of collaborators. It enables a continuous development and exchange of information that improves performance.
A learning culture values experience as the primary source of learning, superior to courses, and sets up mechanisms for people to learn from their own and others’ experiences. To take advantage of this juggernaut, businesses need to implement a planned abandonment of the “job and classroom” paradigm and migrate to the “role and informal learning” paradigm. We will be successful when we have accomplished the migration to an autonomous and collaborative workforce that continuously learns how to compete more successfully and operate more productively. So, the Web 2.0 workplace demands excellent “learning design” as a replacement for “instructional design”. What are the principles of excellent learning design? Someone who has spent years thinking and speaking about informal learning is Jay Cross; check out his site, books, and blogs. Another person well known for his work in performance support and informal learning is Dr. Conrad Gottfredson whom you can hear on the 12 minute podcast made on 4/15/08.
I invite you to participate in what I hope will be an ongoing series of lively conversations about mangaging talent and investing in human capital. There are a myriad of topics related to all of the aspects of acquiring, developing, and retaining the talent your business needs now and in the future, and we would like to address them all as our thinking and your thinking evolves through dialogue, research, and experimentation. So, where to begin?
The bottom line is a good place to start. At the KnowledgeAdvisors’ 6th Annual Analytics Symposium early in March, I particularly enjoyed being exposed to the work of two organizations doing great work in this area. The first was McBassi & Company. Laurie Bassi and Daniel McMurrer http://www.mcbassi.com/ have developed methods for measuring human capital capabilities and then connecting them to a company’s bottom line outcomes - see “Maximizing Your Return on People” (by Bassi and McMurrer) in the March 2007 Harvard Business Review. The second is the Institute for Intellectual Capital Research and its Director, Dr. Nick Bontis http://www.nickbontis.com/main.swf who has developed methods to causally connect human capital investments to specific financial outcomes. You can see his papers and books at http://www.nickbontis.com/Research.htm.
So, the challenge to business leaders is to be more transformational than transactional. That means recognizing that the overarching and constantly repeated question for HR has to be how to make human capital more productive. The place to start always has to be with the human capital performance the business needs today and in the future to execute on its strategy, run its operations, and achieve specific measures of success. The art and science of human capital management is then to work backwards to identify the leverage points that will produce the performance needed. I’m anxious to hear your thoughts and examples!
Read all about State Parkway Partners in the media and various industry publications.
KnowledgeAdvisor’s 2008 Analytics Symposium: Measuring Learning & Maximizing Human Capital –
Tom was invited to present a keynote presentation “Workforce Planning in the Real World”.
Elliott Masie’s Learning 2007 –
Tom was asked to facilitate a session on “Dividing Your Learning Time: Implementation, Evaluation, Innovation or Benchmarking.” The discussion was about how successful learning leaders:
- identify and invest in the know-how their companies need to succeed;
- hire, develop, and retain the best talent;
- manage their cost structure well;
- validate that their L&D group is among the best at what they do; and
- innovate to deliver improved business advantage.
The Best of OD 2007 Summit –
Tom presented “A Comprehensive Approach to Talent at CNA” in which he described the approach being taken at CNA to reviewing and planning to address talent needs in an integrated fashion across the HR silos of recruiting, workforce planning, performance management, leadership development, compensation, benefits, and learning.
Elliott Masie’s Learning 2006 –
Tom was invited to co-facilitate the Financial Services & Learning Industry group discussion.
KnowledgeAdvisor’s 2006 Learning Analytics Symposium –
Tom was invited to give a presentation titled “Strategic Value Creation: Mapping Learning to Organizational Strategy”. Tom described the approach he developed and used at CNA, beginning in 2000, to manage learning expenses as a portfolio of investments that are directly mapped to strategic and operating objectives.
Elliott Masie’s Learning 2005 –
Tom was invited to participate on an industry panel discussing trends in learning and how companies were adopting new practices to meet the demands of improved business performance.
Bersin & Associates 2005 Research –
Bersin’s research report “High Impact Learning Organizations” named CNA as a “best practice” company for both the centralized/decentralized, insourced/outsourced balance in the governance structure Tom developed and for the method of aligning learning investments to business strategy.
CLO Magazine February 2005 –
CLO Magazine, in an article titled “CNA Insurance: Supporting an Effective Workforce”, highlighted the unique approach Tom and his colleagues took to training all of CNA’s management in all five aspects of performance management (performance planning, performance assessment, development planning, coaching and feedback, and rewards and recognition) in five 60 day increments over one year. This approach combined e-learning courses, synchronous webinars, an online collaboration platform where participants would post their assignments and receive feedback from peers and a coach, and in face-to-face classroom settings.
Click HERE to read the article.
Corporate Executive Board: Learning & Development Roundtable –
Research conducted and published by the L&D Roundtable for its members highlighted Tom’s work at CNA as a benchmark for aligning learning investments to business strategy.
Training Magazine January 2004 –
Training magazine, in an article called “Managing Projects”, noted the holistic approach to learning Tom instituted at CNA. It is an approach that leads people not only to learn technical knowledge but also to learn how to apply and make decisions with that knowledge in a team setting as they would have to on the job.
Click HERE to read the article.
Elliott Masie’s TechLearn 2003 –
Tom presented “Focusing on What Matters: A Novel Approach to Curriculum Design and Blended Learning” with Chip Cleary, VP Advisory Services, NIIT Cognitive Arts and Bill Bruck, Founder and General Manager, Q2 Learning. The presentation described how Tom implemented at CNA the use of NIIT Cognitive Arts critical mistake analysis process to develop content for e- learning programs and how those e-learning programs were integrated into Q2 Learning’s collaborative eCampus where participants not only completed the e-learning courses but then practiced application and received feedback and coaching via the eCampus.
Tom Hilgart and Shirley Kitzmann have had the unique opportunity of working alongside some of the most esteemed executives in the nation.
Here’s what a few of them have to say:
“Tom is the smartest learning executive I have had the pleasure to work with. He is scrupulously honest and fair, and equally capable of devising innovative learning solutions, charting the political waters to get them funded, and carefully managing the process to ensure they are implemented.”
–Bill Bruck, Principal, Q2Learning, LLC (was a consultant or contractor to Tom at State Parkway Partners) January 31, 2008
“Tom is a recognized thought leader in the learning and talent management arena. He combines strategic vision, leadership skills, and deep business acumen to deliver world-class talent development and management solutions that drive results. His integrity, humor and intellect make him easy to work with and fun to be around. I recommended him highly in any capacity and would work with him again without question, reservation or hesitation.”
–Brian Richardson, PMP, President, Richardson Consulting Group (reported to Tom at State Parkway Partners) January 28, 2008
“Tom is an outstanding leader and business professional. He possesses a rich knowledge of the learning and development industry, the insurance industry and general business.”
–Jay Kostrzewa, Assistant Vice President - Knowledge and Learning Group, CNA Financial (reported to Tom at CNA) VP, Knowledge & Learning Group CNA, May 25, 2007
“Tom is one of the most highly respected senior executives I have worked with in the learning industry. He is creative, experienced, and knows how to combine the strategic with the tactical.”
–Kent Barnett, Owner, KnowledgeAdvisors, Inc. (was with another company when working with Tom at CNA) February 4, 2008
“I’ve worked with Tom Hilgart for many years and his vast knowledge of learning and development and human capital is among the best I know. His creative insights and years of experience would be a tremendous asset to any organization. Further, Tom is an honest and ethical business person. He is fair and objective. His character is second to none.”
–Jeffrey Berk, Chief Operating Officer, KnowledgeAdvisors_(was with another company when working with Tom at CNA) February 2, 2008
“Tom is a forward thinking executive with a fluent understanding of the learning and development and talent management needs of his organization. As a provider of Project Management services to CNA insurance Tom was instrumental in helping us to align our solutions with CNA’s larger corporate business strategies. As the organizations business strategy and needs shifted Tom and his staff were there to make sure that we remained in alignment with the organizations evolving needs.”
–John Scuras, Midwest Regional Sales Manager, PCI Global_(was a consultant or contractor to Tom at CNA) January 28, 2008
State Parkway Partners recommends the following companies to enhance services and strategies:
- Q2 Learning provides speed-to-proficiency solutions for high value learning initiatives to corporations using our collaborative learning platform, the xPERT eCampus.
- KnowledgeAdvisors is the global leader in Human Capital Analytics. They help organizations measure, communicate and improve the impact of their learning and development investments.
- LearnShare was founded in 1996 by Fortune 500 companies who were seeking to join together to transform the way their companies research, design, purchase, package and communicate career development and skill enhancement. This visionary group, the Owners, included General Motors, 3M, Motorola, Owens Corning, Deere & Co., O-I, Eaton, Northwest Airlines, Pfizer Inc, Pilkington, UnitedHealth Group, and Chevron. Since that time, the owners have been joined by more than 30 of the largest, most diverse corporations in the world representing more than 2.5 million employees around the globe.
- Bersin & Associates is an organization of senior analysts and consultants with extensive experience in corporate learning, e-learning, performance management, leadership development, talent management, and enterprise systems. Their WhatWorks® research methodology allows them to identify unique and powerful business solutions which enable learning and HR managers to drive dramatic improvements in their organizations.
- NIIT Cognitive Arts is a leading Global Talent Development Corporation, building skilled manpower pool for global industry requirements. The company which was set up in 1981, to help the nascent IT industry overcome its human resource challenges, has today grown to be amongst world’s leading talent development companies offering learning solutions to Individuals, Enterprises and Institutions across 40 countries.
Partner, State Parkway Partners
Tom Hilgart offers 35 years of business leadership experience as a line manager delivering operational improvement in insurance operations, as an internal consultant in process innovation and quality management, and as a nationally recognized leader in corporate learning and development.From 2000 through 2007, Tom served as Vice President of the Knowledge & Learning Group at CNA.CNA was recognized in 2004 by Corporate Executive Board research as a benchmark company for its approach to aligning learning investments to business strategy.In 2005, CNA was acknowledged by Bersin & Associates research as a best practice company both for its alignment of learning investments to business strategy and for the effectiveness of its balanced centralized/decentralized governance structure.Prior to that Tom was
- an internal consultant in quality management, benchmarking, and process redesign
- director of management development
- director of insurance operations
Tom earned a BA in philosophy from St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein IL and completed extensive graduate studies in philosophy, education, and social sciences at Loyola University and Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, IL.
Partner, State Parkway Partners
Shirley Kitzmann offers a wealth of business acumen resulting from over 25 years of extensive consulting, human resources, communications, and operations management experience for entrepreneurial, professional services, mid-sized and Fortune 500 companies.In her work as a management consultant and Human Resources executive, Ms. Kitzmann has helped organizations achieve their strategic objectives by focusing on human resources processes, investments in support of organization development, and culture change. She is skilled in designing and implementing total rewards programs, organizational and job design, organizational effectiveness processes, performance management, learning and development strategies and programs, succession planning processes, and communication strategies.Ms. Kitzmann has lectured for Loyola University’s (Chicago) Human Resources and Industrial Relations Institute’s graduate program, and has served as an Adjunct Professor for Washington University’s (St. Louis) Human Resources graduate program. She earned a BA from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, and an MBA from the University of Minnesota.