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3 Innovative HR Tactics for the New Normal

Whitney Johnson

Thinker, Writer, Speaker, Advisor, Doer

In September of this year, I had a chance to sit down with Pim de Morree, the co-founder and CEO of Corporate Rebels, on the Disrupt Yourself podcast. de Morree is a fascinating young entrepreneur who left a promising, more conventional career in 2016 to found a research and consulting firm, Corporate Rebels, with his childhood friend and business partner Joost Minnaar.

Their organization studies successful business leaders and companies around the world who are using somewhat radical HR practices to build better organizations. After years of exploring and researching, Corporate Rebels collected their findings and documented them in a new book, titled "Corporate Rebels: Make Work More Fun."

In our conversation, de Morree explained some of these cutting-edge HR practices and how he's applied them to his team at Corporate Rebels to create more transparency, trust, and fun. He says that by rethinking employees salaries, job descriptions, and productivity measurement Corporate Rebels saw higher engagement and business growth—and other companies can do the same.

Here are some of the cutting-edge HR practices de Moree champions, and why.

Set Your Own Salary Using an "Advice Process"

Instead of establishing rigid salary ranges for specific positions, HR teams can allow employees to establish their own salary and benefit packages.

Traditionally, says de Morree, "Goals are misaligned. The job seeker wants as much compensation as possible, while the employer often wants to pay significantly less."

To avoid this, Corporate Rebels allows employees to set their own salaries through what de Morree calls the advice process:

"Employees come up with a rough proposal for what they want to earn, and then have to get advice from colleagues who are influenced by that number. After they gather all their advice, the employee decides what to do. So, they are in the end responsible for listening to or ignoring their colleagues and making their final decision on what it is they actually want to earn."

In order for this strategy to work well, companies have to be extremely transparent with all of their employees about their finances, expenses and salaries. This will not only help employees create affordable, more realistic salary proposals, but foster more trust internally. This strategy also encourages employees to think more critically about the value they bring to the company, and makes salary setting an ongoing evaluation.

"If employees think they deserve a salary bump, they can create a proposal explaining their increased value-add," explains de Morree. "But they have to prove and defend it. The responsibility falls on them."

Eschew Job Descriptions in Favor of Team Sharing

When companies follow job descriptions too closely, it encourages the assumption that whatever is not included in an employee’s description is excluded from their role and should be left to someone else.

"But this doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially not if things change very quickly in your company," explains de Morree.

Instead, he recommends that teams sit down and enumerate all the tasks necessary to create success for the entire team and cluster those tasks into roles. Then, let people pick up the roles they want, based on their intrinsic motivations. In effect, this strategy allows individuals to craft their own perfect job.

"This strategy can help solve the problem of unmotivated employees," argues de Morree. "If there are employees who feel stuck in their jobs, or don't really feel like their greatest talents are being utilized, they can more easily solve this problem."

Measure Outcomes, Not Hours

de Morree believes that counting hours of work, rather than results is "the most outdated practice we still have in workplaces."

"We can trust people more than we think we can—and the success of remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic proved this to be true," says de Morree.

Instead of worrying about whether or not employees are doing their work at a certain time and setting expectations around traditional, 9-to-5 structures, create expectations more holistically. At Corporate Rebels, the employees set and announce individual, monthly goals. Then, at the end of the month, the teams reflect to see if employees have actually been able to achieve their self-set targets. If they haven’t, the company looks for ways to help them accomplish them.

As long as employees are delivering the right results, there aren’t any conversations around the amount of hours they spend at work. This strategy creates more flexibility for employees at all levels of the organization and encourages them to create work-life balance in their schedules.

"It not only gives employees the responsibility to create their own schedule, but for them to adopt responsibility for doing a good job," explains de Morree.

HR Shouldn’t Slow Innovation Down

HR professionals can’t be laggards in innovation—and that’s true now more than ever. As remote work continues to be the standard for everyday business operations, organizations need to find better ways to engage and support their employees.

A good first step? Start thinking about new, more inventive strategies for creating more transparency, flexibility and trust internally.

For more advice for leaders on how companies can integrate more innovative and effective HR strategies, check out this ReWork’s series on how one new technology, blockchain, can support and improve organizations’ HR practices.

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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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