Jill Altana, ADP’s Global Chief Talent Officer, joins Senior Editor Lauren Dixon to discuss the difference between talent engagement and talent activation.
These were the top Talent Economy stories for the week of February 19-23, 2018:
Consider These Initiatives When Developing First-Time Managers: Young managers face fresh challenges at work. Here’s what they should learn and what leaders should do to assist them, writes Senior Editor Lauren Dixon.
Millennials Want Workplaces With Social Purpose. How Does Your Company Measure Up?: Millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025 and they are looking for socially responsible employers, writes Talent Economy Influencer Peggie Pelosi.
4 Reasons for Rising Corporate Profits and Stagnant Wages: Industry concentration, a low interest rate environment and increasingly profitable technology investments are just a few of the reasons wages have remained stagnant while corporate profits have grown in recent years. Learn more from the recent video with Senior Editor Lauren Dixon.
Talent10x: Denise Lee Yohn Shares How to Integrate Brand and Culture: Listen to the latest podcast episode in which Denise Lee Yohn joins Senior Editor Lauren Dixon to discuss how to align company brand and culture and the benefits of doing so.
Baby Boomers Booming as Gig Workers: From our sister publication, Workforce Associate Editor Andie Burjek interviewed Marion McGovern, author of “Thriving in the Gig Economy.”
Finally, these are the top talent stories we’re reading from around the web for this week:
Following Brexit, EU citizens are far less likely to move to Britain for work, according to Quartz.
Rural Georgia is watching the immigration debates closely; employers there need immigrants in order to fill roles and get necessary work done, reports NPR.
Microsoft’s gender discrimination lawsuit has a common theme among its 8,630 female plaintiffs: HR, according to Fortune.
Retirement is looking to be a fairy tale for many older Americans, writes The Atlantic.
Female employees at Barclays receive far less than male workers, reports BBC.
Working for a startup that failed taught Jimmye Ahn that companies need to invest in talent — but not in the typical, clichéd sense.
Ahn worked for Whittl, an appointment booking service that shutdown in September 2016. The startup didn’t have any of its roughly 30 employees in people operations. This experience taught her to “make sure you have someone at your startup who is truly invested and whose sole job is to really work for the employees of the company,” she said.
Just three months after Whittl closed, Ahn joined Crafty LLC, a Chicago-based food and beverage service for offices. She was the first employee aside from the firm’s four founders. As head of internal operations and people at Crafty, Ahn focuses on talent strategy and prioritizing the company’s front-line workers.
“I think talent strategy has everything to do with if a startup succeeds,” Ahn said.
Ahn continues to work for Crafty, which now has 40 employees, and she said her challenge now is to maintain enthusiasm in the long-run. “I want to keep that excitement going when it seems like times are tougher,” she said.
As startups grow, various aspects of talent strategy are easily forgotten. Here are some areas to keep top of mind:
Support the Staff
“One of the major things I think startups forget to do is to take care of the employees that they already have,” Ahn said. During periods of significant growth and frequent hiring, there can be a lot of forgotten time that leaders would have with current employees.
It’s therefore important to invest in the right tools and the right path for current employees who are looking to grow with the company and need a trajectory to follow. Even if a startup is in early stages and doesn’t know what the next year will look like, “for your current employees, they want to feel like they have goals that they’re going after,” Ahn said.
At Sprout Social, a social media management company based in Chicago, the talent leaders hire people only when it’s possible to support them, said Jim Conti, the company’s director of talent. “Sometimes, I think that especially in the startup space, that headcount growth can be perceived as successful growth of a business,” Conti said. Other metrics are likely more meaningful, he said.
To understand what success looks like for a startup, companies need to look at areas beyond the size of the company. Conti said Sprout Social celebrates its product releases and great customer experiences to communicate the company’s value.
This process of identifying measures of success can include talking with others who have been through similar startup situations to understand their trajectories. When Conti came on to Sprout in 2013, he reached out to people who worked at other Chicago-area companies’ early teams, including Groupon, to hear their experiences of growing. Then, knowing what they’re aiming for, talent leaders can focus on who they need to hire to realize those goals.
When seeking talent for a startup, it’s important to first look in the right places, Conti said. Take time to understand where to find the right people. For example, salespeople aren’t likely to be on Stack Overflow, a site for software developers.
Crafty’s Ahn added that startups need hires who can do a variety of tasks, who are also flexible and are smart. “When you’re hiring, you have to make sure you’re hiring unicorns,” Ahn said. Startup don’t necessarily know what their roles will look like six months or a year from now, so they need people who can adapt with the business.
It’s also important to hire people of a variety of backgrounds who have experiences different than the founders, Ahn said. Otherwise, the company will be full of people who all look that same and have similar skills. A diverse group will build a unique company culture.
Culture can be a strong differentiator for startups seeking talent, as they’re unlikely to have brand recognition or strong benefits offerings, Sprout Social’s Conti said. “Culture is going to be one of the things that you’re going to be able to offer that’s going to be truly unique to your organization,” he said.
Building a great company culture should start with a firm’s leaders, but “that feels a little tight in terms of having some flexibility for growth and scaling of the business,” Conti said. Instead, company culture comes from the employees, and this changes over time. Thus, talent leaders at Sprout Social think of cultural fit in terms of “culture add.” “We’re looking for folks who can build and transform this business and our team, and so the next iteration of what we’re doing, versus just sort of maintaining what has been before,” Conti said.
A strong culture draws people in. Rob Seay, HR director at Bonfyre, a workplace culture platform based in St. Louis, is the first HR leader at the five-year-old company. “Being the first HR resource to the organization, the company was at a very early stage of really trying to create an identity for itself,” Seay said.
He then got to work, helping create the employer brand, identifying and building on their culture, and then demonstrating it to the market. He began by working with Bonfyre’s leadership to define the mission statement of the company and created a strategy for going to market with it. “It really starts with the leaders in the organization and making sure that they’re really focused in on the things that are really important to them,” Seay said. He had employee statements added to the website, highlighting what they enjoy about Bonfyre. These efforts paid off, as the company became a finalist in St. Louis’ 2017 list of “Best Places to Work.”
The company now employs 36 people, and some were drawn to Bonfyre because of the award. Following the announcement, Seay said Bonfyre received applications from interested people, even though the company had no job postings. Being a finalist created awareness among local talent, helping with recruiting efforts.
After creating a strong employer brand, business leaders must work to preserve it. “All it takes sometimes is a few bad apples, so to speak,” Seay said, and a bad reputation can be difficult to overcome if not addressed early.
Crafty’s Ahn echoed those sentiments, saying that small environments can’t always afford toxic employees who can hurt morale. “Don’t be afraid of turnover,” Ahn said. “You don’t have to delay it, either. That is far better in the long run.”
Lauren Dixon is an associate editor at Talent Economy. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advancements in technologies like automation and artificial intelligence are increasingly improving companies’ productivity and performance, but they are also sparking a fear that they will replace human jobs, which might make some leaders hesitant.
According to a June 2015 Harvard Business Review article, “Robots Seem to Be Improving Productivity, Not Costing Jobs,” researchers found that “the use of robots within manufacturing raised the annual growth of labor productivity and GDP by 0.36 and 0.37 percentage points, respectively, between 1993 and 2007,” representing 10 percent of total GDP growth and 16 percent of labor productivity growth. In more recent years, automation and artificial intelligence have vastly increased productivity in all industries, with many more advancements expected in the future.
Still, despite automation’s rise and evidence showing its role in improving productivity, some might be cautious to fully implement the technology due to a number of factors.
First, automation technology is so new that there often isn’t enough data to build out a fully automated system, according to Ulrik Christensen, executive chairman of Area9 Learning, a personalized and adaptive learning technology company based in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He pointed to the fact that neural networks — or computer systems inspired by the human brain and nervous system — only recently became more efficient and accessible. For individual systems to automate, for instance, they must gather vast amounts of data for the neural network, which takes both time and expertise.
Second, in areas where the technology is capable of automating human jobs, some luddites might consider bypassing automation in favor of human workers for fear of the social toll it might bring. So far, however, most executives haven’t fallen into this category and have shown no hesitation to automate jobs where the technology is accessible, according to Tom Davenport, professor of information technology and management at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. “I don’t see any bias that humans need to do most jobs,” Davenport said. In fact, not only are executives not hesitant to replace workers with automation technology; they want more of it, Davenport said. “They don’t really want to talk about it publicly much because it would sound really bad to the employees,” he said.
Indeed, public perception may hold some executives back when talking about investing more in automation and other emerging technologies that might threaten jobs. Doing so would not only influence employee sentiment inside their companies but could also influence the company’s consumer brand. For instance, if the perception is that employers are investing more in robots than their employees, it might influence customer buying decisions, according to David Greenfield, director of content and editor-in-chief for Automation World, a trade publication for professionals working in discrete, batch and process manufacturing industries based in Chicago.
Another factor pulling at executives is that too much investment in automation might eliminate the human element in certain vital organizational processes, Greenfield said. Feeling recognized for one’s work and being mentored both are measures of employee satisfaction that require a human touch. “There are some things internally that can certainly be automated, but especially within a company, one of the biggest knots on many corporations is the lack of feeling like you belong and have a part in a company. Automating too many processes certainly is not going to help that,” Greenfield said.
A final balancing act executives might have to manage when implementing automation technology is how it is communicated to employees internally. Employees’ fear of losing their jobs is one of the biggest barriers to automation in the workplace, even if certain forecasts overstate the threat. For example, when Greenfield interviews leaders of manufacturing companies for Automation World, he frequently hears about how workers fear that they will have to find other work as a result of increased investment in automation. However, most new implementations supplement, not replace, human work, and after that initial fear passes, workers get used to the technology and even grow to like it for the benefits of safer work environments and automation of mundane tasks, Greenfield said.
Employees may not always lose their jobs because there are still human tasks to do around robots and automation, including maintenance, repairs and verifying the machine’s output, Greenfield said. In some cases, automation and robotics creates new jobs, such as a “robot trainer,” which provides feedback for machines to become better at automation, according to Josh Bersin, principal and founder of research and advisory firm Bersin by Deloitte. Human thinking will still be of value in roles that require social skills, design and communication. “Every technical job is slowly upgraded to add more social and human skills,” Bersin said.
Nevertheless, it’s unpopular for companies to say they plan to replace human jobs with robots, so how should companies go about it? Said Babson College’s Davenport: “What I think works a lot better is if you say, ‘We’re committed to keeping as many people around as we can, and we’d like to move you to higher value-added activity.’” Added Davenport: “They need to say, ‘OK, it’s time to get our people ready, and HR, that’s your job to do that.’”
Education is Essential
Perhaps most important amid the delicate act of implementing and communicating use of automation and robotic technology in the workforce is retraining and educating people on the details of the transition.
Bersin said within those working on automation projects, about a fifth are eliminating humans from their jobs. Others are redesigning jobs and training existing people to use new tools. “Individuals who are unable or unwilling to learn new tools will be left behind,” Bersin said. Furthermore, organizations that neglect to reeducate their workforce will lose competitive advantage.
Training, therefore, is critical, and it’s the obligation of employers to lead the effort, according to Area9 Learning’s Christensen. He said business leaders should actively lobby policy makers on improving the education system to help account for the new needs of the workforce in the age of automation.
Those leading higher education need to step up as well, said Automation World’s Greenfield. “So much is happening so fast, and people are not adapting to it well at all,” he said. “And nothing is really changing in the education system to affect that.”
Lauren Dixon is an associate editor at Talent Economy. To comment, email email@example.com.