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ICYMI: What We Learned at SHRM 2019

Cornerstone Editors

At the annual SHRM conference, thousands of HR professionals heard from industry leaders about the many trends shaping HR and came away with valuable insights to help them do their jobs better, and in turn, improve the employee experience at their organizations.

Didn't get to attend this year's conference? We've compiled a list of main themes from the conference to get you up to speed on what you missed.

1) Approach Diversity Differently

The topic of diversity is just as vague as it is important. When people talk about diversity in the workplace, they are often referring to race and gender diversity. But according to SHRM CEO and president Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., diverse hiring practices should go beyond attracting and retaining more women and people of color. Diverse hiring should also extend to people with other types of diverse ideas, experiences and backgrounds. In his keynote address, Taylor challenged attendees to hire for other diverse or marginalized groups that are often overlooked, like candidates with criminal records, those with disabilities, returning veterans and older adults.

Why pursue candidates with unique backgrounds? Hiring them can radically improve the way your business operates. For example, hiring older workers who are typically considered "overqualified" or "too close to retirement" can create a multi-generational workforce that offers different types of viewpoints, mentorship opportunities and a healthy exchange of ideas that you won't see in an office of all millennials. Meanwhile, hiring people with disabilities can improve the quality of work your employees deliver. For example, an employee who is on the autism spectrum may have the ability to effectively memorize important information, while an employee with obsessive-compulsive disorder might express a high level of creativity and attention to detail.

"We need to let these people in," Taylor said. "We need to create workplaces where everyone can thrive."

2) To Hire Better, Identify Candidates' Values

When it comes to hiring, experience and professional accomplishments are important metrics for determining whether a candidate would be an asset to your organization. But these considerations are only a few pieces of the puzzle—understanding a person's character is arguably much more important. Since you only meet candidates a handful of times and very briefly, before you extend an offer, you need to determine the right questions to ask to identify those who are fundamentally a good fit—and weed out the rest.

At SHRM's smart stage session, "Three Questions You Should Ask Every Applicant," Consultant Karl James Ahlrichs recommended hiring managers ask questions that will help determine a candidate's values and work ethic, flexibility and adaptability in the face of inevitable change, and identify a candidate's ability to take ownership of actions or decisions. Answers to these questions can typically paint a better picture of the type of employee a candidate will be than discussing concrete skills and experiences alone.

3) Follow This Formula for Turnover Prevention

In a time of low unemployment, your employees are a hot commodity. More organizations are offering better benefits and higher salaries in exchange for the most qualified candidates. Plus, many of today's employed workers are interested in other opportunities. In fact, a recent study from Mental Health America found that 70% of workers are either actively looking for a new job or thinking about it. So how do you keep your employees from jumping ship?

The answer is a comprehensive strategy, not a quick-fix solution. Cornerstone's VP of Global Small and Medium Business Paul Broughton, who presented on this topic at SHRM, said that organizations can retain their employees by taking a LEAP: that is, prioritizing learning, empathy, advancement and purpose. Here's how LEAP breaks down:

Learning

Learning and development opportunities can make or break an employee's experience at a company. More than ninety percent of employees said they would be more likely to stay at an organization that invested in their career development. Meanwhile, talent development professionals say that getting employees to make time for learning is their number one challenge. Employers can meet their employees in the middle by incentivizing learning and development activities. How? Broughton recommends offering a reward system for learning and offering prizes to employees who make time for development—and managers who champion them.

Empathy

People don't quit companies—they quit negative or unsupportive bosses. In fact, 82% of employees say they would consider leaving their job for a more empathetic organization. The reverse is also true: an empathetic manager can keep a high-performing employee around. Fostering a culture of support and emotional intelligence can help you retain a talented workforce. You can start by introducing these concepts as part of your mission statement or core values and training employees on empathy and emotional intelligence. By demonstrating a commitment to a supportive work environment and communicating these values from the top down, employees will begin to take note.

Advancement

Talented employees are ambitious, which means many will eventually want to grow into a managerial or more senior role. HR professionals can work with individual employees and their managers to discuss opportunities for upward mobility and more responsibility and design a career development plan to track performance metrics and identify leadership training opportunities.

Purpose

Millennials might as well be known as the "do good" generation—they want a job that not only pays the bills, but also offers them an opportunity to contribute to a larger cause. According to a Glassdoor report, 75% of employees between 18 and 34 expect their employer to take a stand on social issues from immigration to climate change. Take a look at your company's mission, and think about how you can infuse these expectations into your organization's existing values. For example, start by sponsoring a cause that your employees care about or organize a company-wide volunteer day.

By taking these steps, you will increase your chances of retaining employees and decrease the number of employees who decide to jump ship.

Photo: Creative Commons

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A New Poseidon Adventure: Flipping Succession Planning Upside Down

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A New Poseidon Adventure: Flipping Succession Planning Upside Down

Organizations make significant investments in efforts to hire the right candidates – the people who have the right experience and cultural fit. By carefully managing the performance and potential of these people over time, the organization can grow its leadership pipeline, keep a steady inventory of needed skills and competencies and remain nimble in the face of change (which we have plenty of all around us these day) – all of which can have serious impact on the bottom line. However, much of this pie-in-the-sky stuff relies on being able to locate and cultivate high-potential and high-performing talent across the board. Without an integrated succession management solution, recognizing and developing talent can be an ever-elusive process. The questions we are seeing asked today include: does the traditional top-down approach to succession management still make enough of a difference? Does managing succession for a slim strata of senior executives take full advantage of the kinds of talent data we now have at our fingertips? It doesn’t have to be so. Succession management can be an interactive process between senior leadership, managers and employees at all levels of the organization. And, if we trust them, we can actually let employees become active participants in their own career development. (Shudder.) Career Management (Succession Planning Flipped Upside Down) This "bottom-up" approach is gaining momentum because who better to tell us about employee career path preferences than employees themselves. Organizations actually have talent management and other HR systems in place that allow for collecting and analyzing a whole slew of data around: Career history Career preferences Mobility preferences Professional and special skills Education achieved Competency ratings Performance scores Goal achievement Training and certifications Etc. In short, pretty much everything we’d want to know to make well-informed succession planning and talent pooling decisions. For some, the leap is simply putting some power into the employee’s hands. The talent management system of 2011 is capable of displaying a clear internal career path for employees and then, on the basis of all that data bulleted out above, showing a "Readiness Gap" – what do you need to do to make the step to the next level? And if your talent management environment comes armed with a real Learning Management System, you can take it to the next level with a dynamically generated development plan that gets the employee on the right path to actually closing those gaps. Faster development, faster mobility. Organizations that seriously favor internal mobility don’t just make employees stick on pre-defined career paths – they can search for ANY job in the company and check their Readiness levels. I might be in accounting today, but what I really want to do is move to marketing. Giving employees the chance to explore various career avenues within the organization helps assure that "water finds its level" – that is, that the right people with the right skills and the right levels of motivation and engagement find the right job roles internally. Employee participation is key, but make no mistake – managers play an important role in this interactive process. They must be prepared to provide career coaching, identify development opportunities and recommend employees for job openings. The candid discussions require that employees have open access to information so they can best understand the criteria necessary to move to the next level. A Two-Way Street Employee-driven career management is just one tool. The more traditional top-down approach to succession management remains indispensable. But organizations that value talent mobility and the ability to be able to shift and mobilize talent resources quickly will find that attention to career pathing can be vital. For employees, of course, the impacts are immediate and include boosted levels of engagement, higher retention, increased productivity and more.

The Hidden Costs of Ignoring Your Talent Management Strategy

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The Hidden Costs of Ignoring Your Talent Management Strategy

Building and maintaining a successful company hinges on having the right people to execute projects and drive results. People, we hear time and again, are your company's most valuable asset. But their success — and HR's ability to recruit, engage and retain them — depends on HR pros who are strategic decision-makers, armed with the proper tools to let them excel at their jobs. Modern HR professionals manage much more than payroll and benefits. But their technology tools, in many cases, haven't evolved past basic productivity software like email or Microsoft Word. HR simply can't be strategic with old-school tools that reduce people to statistics and give little insight into what the numbers mean. Emails and spreadsheets were not designed to deliver meaningful insights into people's performance, suggest when employees should be promoted or highlight skills gaps in a company. For that, HR needs a broader, more strategic set of talent management tools, which lets professionals manage every aspect of the workforce, from training and performance reviews to collaboration and succession planning. Yet, research shows that less than 25% of companies use a unified, holistic approach to their talent management. The Real Costs of "Doing Nothing" As a Talent Management Strategy The critical relationship between business strategy and HR strategy too often gets overlooked by senior leadership. While it may seem like the company is saving money by managing recruiting, training, performance and succession via manual and paper-based processes, in reality it’s costing your business more than you know. For example: Without a talent management strategy, a company with 2,000 employees is losing almost $2 million every year in preventable turnover alone. Businesses that don’t invest in learning suffer from decreased employee performance and engagement to such a degree that they can expect to realize less than half the median revenue per employee. That’s a direct impact on the business. In employee performance management, organizations without a focused strategy waste up to 34 days each year managing underperformers and realize lower net income. To learn more about the business impact of talent management and how to start building out your strategy, check out the eBook Why Your Nonexistent Talent Management Strategy is Costing You Money (And How to Fix It) and register for the March 19th webinar, Building the Business Case for Talent Management.

The Return of the Moderate Merit Budget – Wreaking Havoc on Pay for Performance

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The Return of the Moderate Merit Budget – Wreaking Havoc on Pay for Performance

With the economy now on steadier ground, most organizations have returned to administering a merit budget to the pre-recession levels of 3 to 3.5%. In the years immediately following the economic downturn, many merit budgets were eliminated entirely or were reduced significantly and reserved for a select segment of the employee population. Pay for performance has become a necessity for many organizations that are expected to accomplish more with fewer resources. I often get asked: "How can I truly award my top performers with such a limited budget? Should I do so at the expense of my ’Meets Expectations’ performers? What if I need to retain my ’Meets Expectations’ performers and giving them 0% to 2% increase puts me at great risk for turnover? But if I don’t recognize my top performers, don’t I risk losing them...?" These are difficult questions to answer, however you can determine the best solution for your organization by considering the following: Are your employees paid at market pay levels? Is your organization’s performance management process mature? Does your organization have other compensation programs in place to reward top performers (e.g. variable pay)? Market Pay If turnover is a concern, and your organization needs to maintain ’bench strength’ in order to achieve its strategic objectives, your biggest priority should be to ensure that you are paying your employees at market pay levels. Why? Historically, as the labor market strengthens, organizations become vulnerable in terms of losing people. Hiring and onboarding replacement talent is not only costly to the organization, but can also cause dissension among existing employees since new hires may be getting paid more. Be sure to stay abreast of market pay levels and trends, and use the merit budget to correct disparities. Performance Management Process Organizations vary significantly in terms of the maturity of their performance management process. Closely examine your organization’s process and look for ways to improve it. If there is a perception that one management team is an ’easier grader’ than the others, the process is inherently flawed and any pay for performance program will not be viewed as credible and fair by employees. A good place to start is to get a calibration process in place and communicate broad guidelines on expected distribution ratings. Variable Pay Programs Variable pay programs (e.g. bonuses) have become increasingly more popular across all industries and career levels. These programs provide the opportunity for employees to share in the organization’s success while not adding to fixed payroll costs. Some plans have an individual performance component which can be a very effective means to recognize top performers. However, in order for this type of program to be successful, individual goals and targets must be well documented and communicated. Again, this is largely based on the maturity of the organization’s performance management process which takes time to evolve. What are the best steps to avoid wreaking havoc on your pay for performance process? First ensure your pay levels are keeping pace with the market Continue to evolve your performance programs with calibration among managers and a rigorous goal setting process Promote variable pay plans to reward high performers without adding to fixed pay roll costs It’s not always an easy journey but, in the end, it’s best to use a measured approach that is based on business needs and a realistic assessment of your current programs and processes.

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