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The ReWork Editors's picture

HR Labs, DEIB Edition: Building a Culture of Belonging with Lorraine Vargas Townsend

We’re thrilled to announce the third season of HR Labs, a podcast that explores how to create a better employee experience for all of your people. This season is hosted by Cornerstone’s Chief Learning Officer and VP of Organizational Effectiveness Jeff Miller and Chief Diversity Officer Duane La Bom. Through conversations with change-makers, activists, executives and experts, they’ll explore strategies for taking diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives from intention to action. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Lorraine Vargas Townsend has had one mission in mind during her 20-year career in HR: to ensure everyone feels a sense of belonging and respect in the workplace. She has worked at a variety of companies, from Schneider Electric to athenahealth to Mendix and, today, she is Chief People Guru at A Cloud Guru. In our final episode of Season 3 of HR Labs, Duane sat down with Vargas Townsend to hear more about what she’s learned over the years on how to create a true culture of belonging in the workplace. 

Using DEI&B to Unleash People’s Potential

This pursuit stems, in part, from her own experience growing up in a Texas town where she—as a Latina and as a lesbian—didn’t feel as though she belonged. As the daughter of a hard-working, single, immigrant mother, Vargas Townsend also understood from an early age how work can dramatically impact the trajectory of people’s lives and their sense of belonging. She herself only experienced a deeper sense of belonging once joining the team at A Cloud Guru. 

“When I joined A Cloud Guru, it was one of the first times where I had a moment of clarity about the difference of being a good culture fit versus belonging,” she told Duane in the final episode of HR Labs. “I just knew that I belonged at A Cloud Guru, because this was a place that was not only tolerating me because of my difference, but it was protecting me. It was celebrating me.”

And this feeling of truly belonging, Lorraine believes, is the only way to unleash someone’s true potential at work. 

Why Belonging is Good for Your People and Your Business

There is ample data showing that DEI&B is good for business. But before being a good business decision, DEI&B, at its core, has the ability to improve the lives of the individuals at an organization. The reality of having—or not having—a job is that people’s work is inextricably linked with people’s lives.  

According to Lorraine, a person who belongs is 50% less likely to leave an organization. They’re also 56% more likely to improve their performance, 75% less likely to call in sick and 167% more likely to be a promoter of the company.

“The opposite of belonging is a culture where tokenism thrives and where tolerating people wins, instead of celebrating people and helping them get to prosperity and growth,” said Lorraine. 

HR’s Role in Building a Culture of Belonging

But HR leaders can’t successfully work toward a culture of belonging by themselves—to do so involves tearing apart every single HR process and tradition and trying to rebuild it all to be as inclusive as possible

Where do we start? In Lorraine’s opinion, this journey begins with confronting previous mistakes, moving forward and leveraging data every step of the way. Check out Lorraine and Duane’s full conversation to hear more about the value of belonging and what else Lorraine has up her sleeve (she calls it, “the most glamorous audit to ever exist”). 

Thanks for joining us on this season of HR Labs, where we explored strategies for seeing real impact from your DEI&B efforts. If you’re just tuning in, check out our previous episodes on unconscious bias, microaggressions, pay equity and engaging white men in DEIB strategies. We’ll be back with Season 4 later this year. 

Suzanne Lucas's picture

As Vaccinations Take Off, Here’s How to Plan a Return to the Office

For the past month, my Facebook feed has been filled with pictures of people’s COVID-19 vaccine cards or their Band-Aid-bedecked arms. And this week, different pictures started to appear: People with their arms around their elderly relatives. 

COVID-19 ripped in-person interactions away from all of us, and we’re happy to get back to hugging and handshakes slowly. And while we know that our family members are waiting for us with open arms, what about our coworkers?

Employees who have been working remotely for over a year now are starting to trickle back to their offices. Meanwhile, essential employees who worked in-person through the worst of the pandemic might even feel brave enough to revive a handshake here and there. 

Still, interactions at work can be awkward. The CDC recommends masking and social distancing unless everyone in the room is fully vaccinated—are you really going to pry into someone’s vaccination status when you schedule a meeting? How do we return to normal at work? Do we keep elbow bumps forever? 

Provide Clear Directions Around Reopening

When people come back to work, make the rules clear. Don’t leave anyone guessing. 

For instance, if your state doesn’t have a mask mandate and people aren’t typically wearing masks at their desks, have a sign on the conference room door that says: “Masks required in the conference room.” And place a box of disposable masks and some hand sanitizer on the table outside the room.

There should be similar signage in all other shared spaces—bathrooms, elevators, etc. This signage avoids confusion and enables you to discipline rule breakers.

Don’t Depend on Employees to Social Distance at Work—Create the Space for Them 

Some people are vaccinated and ready to hug. Others are ready to embrace, even if they’re not vaccinated. In any case, space is the name of the game for the time being—and all of your workers are going to have to respect your social distancing rules. 

If your employees are typically tightly packed in cubicles, you’re going to have to rethink your setup. Push desks apart at least six feet or put up plastic barriers—the kind you’ve likely seen at your local outdoor dining venue. Limit the capacity of large meeting rooms to ensure that employees can keep six feet of distance between them. Set up markers between chairs so that there’s no doubt about what six feet looks like.  

Today, Not Sharing is Caring

You’re working with adults who can decide on their own if they want to share food, but if your team is the type to bake a batch of cookies for the whole office, you may want to send a memo to discourage this temporarily. That way, no one feels obligated to eat something that makes them feel unsafe—and no one is left offended that their colleagues didn’t touch their famous chocolate chip cookies. 

Bagel Fridays may have to wait, too, because that communal container of cream cheese may as well be a jar of germs. You can, of course, offer to comp your employees’ breakfast once a week if you’d like to keep the perk going without the risk.

A Safe Return to Work Calls for Respect

The most critical aspect of a return-to-work plan is concrete communication. Whatever your company rules are, make them explicit. Don’t leave anything up in the air. 

And one other note: Depending on your state or local regulations, your management team may choose to take a more relaxed approach to certain rules, like mask requirements. Nevertheless, make clear to your team that anyone who wants to follow a higher standard of social distancing and masking than your company or state rules require will be respected. Emphasize that you want everyone to have a safe and comfortable return to the office.

To learn more about how Cornerstone can help prepare your employees to return to the office, check out our Content Anytime Professional Skills subscription, featuring the “Returning to Work with COVID-19” courses. These courses provide information and guidelines for protecting yourself and others in the workplace. Interested in learning more about Content Anytime Professional Skills and its benefit to your organization? Contact us!

Ira S. Wolfe's picture

It’s Not About a New Normal: Mistakes to Avoid in 2021

All of us at one time or another have woken up from a deep sleep and didn’t know where we were. We jump out of bed and stub our toe on the corner of the bed. We eventually find the light switch and pull back the curtains. Finally, a sudden burst of clarity washes over us, which reminds us that we’re traveling for business or visiting a friend. We breathe a sigh of relief and calm our pounding heart. While the room is still unfamiliar, we’re okay. 

Welcome to 2021.

After a very long 12 months, we see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. But let’s not pop the corks and unleash the celebrations quite yet. This desire to find normal is fraught with problems. 

Heidi Spirgi, chief strategy and growth officer at Cornerstone, summed it perfectly during a recent mini-summit webinar on adaptability: “Too many businesses are stuck on the notion that the new normal will be one single, homogeneous experience. That’s a mistake!”

Normal evolves. Normal isn’t static. Normal isn’t even perceived the same way by different people. Before March 2020, working from home full-time wasn’t that normal. Only 17% of people worked remotely. Today, it’s normal for some 44% of the population.

We must seize this opportunity to learn new behaviors and unlearn daily norms that no longer work (or never really worked). As we close the book on past assumptions and adjust our mindsets to the ever-evolving “normal,” here are three mistakes to avoid from Spirgi and the other experts who joined me for the adaptability webinar.

Don’t Make a New Normal Your Destination

I hate to break the news to you, but like the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, normal isn’t real either. Spirgi shared during the aforementioned panel discussion, “I struggle with the term normal. Return to normal, back to normal, or even the belief that we are going to somehow establish a new normal. That's a mistake. The world is changing too fast. The world of work and its workplace will be anything but static.”

She’s right. Thinking about normal as one common experience shared by all is sheer fantasy. The reality of the future we face is multiple, simultaneous futures, washing over us like unpredictable waves. And as much as we try to put normal in a box, no two futures will be exactly alike. 

Look no further than all the visions promoted for the future of remote work; from working from home full-time, to working from home 2 or 3 days each week, to returning to a centralized office full time. Your best bet: be prepared to surf multiple waves of new normals.

Don’t Overcorrect with Micromanaging

Companies are going to overcorrect, according to Mary Faulkner, principal at IA-HR, whose firm helps organizations navigate transformation. “They’ve been freewheeling for nearly a year,” she says. “Many organizations offered flexibility to employers so they could juggle work, kids, school, caregiving and everything else life threw at us.” But once things stabilize, Faulkner worries the tendency will be for management to mandate behaviors by rules and regulations, to micromanage how and when work gets done. “I hope they don't do that. I hope companies...don’t just try to draw another box around how work gets done,” she says.

Now is the time to reimagine how and where work can get done and how to retrain, upskill and reskill employees. The past year exposed the fragility of a bureaucratic management style in a world of fluid change. The road back to growth and opportunity is not paved by rules, regulations and micromanagement. Oversight needs to be based less on telling people what to do and more on reskilling employees and supporting them with the tools they need to make smart decisions.

Don’t Assume 2020 Was Just a Blip

The biggest mistake leaders can make, warns AQai co-founder Ross Thornley, is “thinking that the changes we experienced in 2020 were exceptions, not the rule. AQai is developing a framework to help boost individual change readiness. “The events of 2020 weren’t a one-time blip. Our world won’t slow down and neither will the pace of change. 2020 was just the beginning.”

The change foisted on the world in 2020 caused many businesses and people to reinvent themselves on the fly. 2020 taught us we can adapt. But adaptation is not a one-time event. We’ve got to become great at continual reinvention. We need to become adept at adapting. We’re going to be living in an era of perpetual uncertainty. Business and community leaders will need to figure out quickly how to prepare millions of workers to adapt to the relentless and continuous waves of new futures headed our way.

Reimagining our world means each one of us will have to rethink our roles, our relationships, our work, and our environment. Embrace this disruption as an opportunity for a do-over, a time to recalibrate how we live, how we work, how we play. Vision how change can work for you, not against you. Begin to think about the future in different ways. Focus on possibilities, not uncertainty. We can’t control the future but we can learn to navigate it better. Frame the future as a journey, not a destination. Most of all, learn to enjoy the ride.

 For more advice about coping with constant change, read more from Ira Wolfe or check out Cornerstone’s webinar, “How Organizations Can Thrive in the Next Normal.”

Ike Bennion's picture

Empowering the Future Workforce, Part 1: Mapping the Skills Landscape

This post originally appeared on Toolbox HR.

We’re in the midst of another Industrial Revolution—and while we can expect great things to come from technological advances (like increased automation), we’re going to need to work collectively to prepare ourselves for the changes that are to come. We can rest assured, however, that newer, more efficient jobs are on the horizon. Soon, we’ll start to liken the workforce transformations of today to those of the 18th century Industrial Revolution, when we witnessed the now obvious transition of certain roles like carriage drivers to taxi drivers (and now, rideshare app drivers). But before we can realize all the good, productive outcomes from a revolution, we must admit that change is not easy. 

In this next Industrial Revolution, led by the perforation of AI into every industry, how can we actively ease the transition for organizations and their people? Let’s consider this: the automation we are familiar with today often replaces menial tasks, which in turn alters the value that certain roles bring to an organization. In the near future, however, we may start to see AI’s responsibilities shift from objectively placing doors on a car frame to subjectively selecting the best product from a bin with almost infinite combinations of shape, size, texture, color or weight. 

What this means is that the AI Industrial Revolution will impact every role across every industry, but not necessarily equally. While some roles will only see a shift in certain automatable tasks, others with a higher percentage of repeatable tasks will experience more disruption. In order to fully grasp the extent of the impact on various roles and industries, we first need to understand the skills landscape. 

Governments, non-profits, educational institutions and businesses alike are all going to have to play a part in global reskilling and upskilling initiatives. As AI continues to mature, the private sector will need to be more deliberate and strategic in building skills within their people if they want to achieve desired business growth. 

As your organization embarks on a journey to map out your unique skills landscape and drive actionable insights, be sure to consider the following capabilities: a unified view of skills, the measurement of proximity of different skills, and continuous monitoring of new skills.

A Single View of Skills and Capabilities

Even in mature HR organizations, it’s a heavy lift to implement a skills framework that provides insights into which roles require which skills, who has which skills, and which skills are needed from an organizational standpoint. Many teams are only able to complete this sort of work for a relatively narrow scope. 

There are natural barriers around hierarchies, languages, and intensive specializations, which make it difficult to capture a cohesive picture of skills within an organization. Many traditional and even new skills technologies struggle to get past these barriers, only providing pieced together fragments of skills mappings. 

However, there are also next-gen solutions, which sit on massive sets of data gathered from public, private, and academic sources to aggregate a global pool of any term that could be used to represent a skill. From there, Natural Language Processing, analysis, and eventually AI structure these terms into unique “nodes” that can ingest synonyms across global languages to represent skills evenly across the organization. Similar to the world of finance, where we convert the balances of different accounts into a single view to make decisions, this is like creating a single skills balance sheet to understand how to invest for the future.

Gaps and Importance of Proximity

Most of the ink in the future of skills is spilled on gaps: what skills do people have now and what skills are they lacking for the future. With this narrow view, the work ahead of us looks incredibly daunting. In order to have a better understanding of skills evaluation—and achieve more impactful results—it’s critical that we consider proximity and adjacency. 

Take, for instance, clinical research and market research. Intuitively, the names tell us there are commonalities and fundamental differences between the skills required to perform in these areas. These two skills have a correlated distance, or a proximity, to one another. They also have skills that cluster or are closely adjacent to them. But how much is the same and what exactly is different? The clusters surrounding those skills and their own distances from similar skills help provide that key insight into creating a pathway from one set of skills to another. 

Instead of proximity, many solutions focus on hierarchy in organizing sets of skills. Why? Understandably, to help ease human navigation and use. But of course, more advanced solutions also unlock the power of understanding the relationships between skills, as well as the distance, and that is critical to maximizing effectiveness of HR initiatives.

Future-Proofing Your Skills Inventory

Another important concept when considering the new skills revolution is the context of the roles they impact. There are, what we call, “deep roles,” which are very specialized in certain areas that may rapidly change and adjust. These roles will see their skill sets change in concurrence with technology. For instance, highly specialized roles in Natural Language Processing will need to have at least an awareness of new technologies and techniques as they are announced to maintain relevance in the market. 

Supporting these scenarios and the many in between is very difficult for humans to do. That’s why new generations of intelligent skills engines have emerged to actively crawl the web looking for job postings, resumes, blogs, training videos, and other public and private data. These tools help us understand how the global skills economy is shifting. Eventually when there is enough data to be confident of a new skill, the skill is mapped into individual roles to keep workers in those roles competitive with equally dynamic training recommended to help skill them.

Why These Criteria

There’s no doubt we will continue to see innovation in the skills department as upskilling remains a top business and talent priority. With that, there will be many criteria to consider when evaluating the tools needed to support the future workforce. The outcome will be a single up-to-date dashboard of skills across the business that sets the organizations up for success as they plan for the future. 

With these criteria in mind, organizations can have a clearer picture of how to invest in their people development. The driving force that gets us from today to tomorrow is skill-building. This development takes time, and it's successful when it’s pinpointed and personalized. With the sheer volume of employees and their nuanced roles, we have to prepare to fill the 95 million jobs of the future quickly and efficiently.

For additional insights about how employees identify and develop their employees’ skills, check out our global skills report

Matthew Reyes's picture

Understanding and Embracing Organizational Learning

If your business doesn’t take advantage of organizational learning principles, you may be leaving money, and all kinds of resources, on the table. Embracing organizational learning is one of the most prominent best practices in today's business world. 

If that sounds hyperbolic, read on to see why this type of theory is so important and how it can be a boon for your business.

What is Organizational Learning?

Organizational learning is a theory about how knowledge exists in an organization. It covers how knowledge flows through an organization, how it’s aggregated, how it’s used, how it’s acted upon, and how an organization ensures its consistency.

When you think about organizational learning, think about each process that workers perform as part of their daily job as its own informational resource, with its own knowledge base. When you look at each process associated with various roles within your organization, what do you see? Is there enough information available to understand how each person completes their tasks. 

For example, let's say that an insurance company has to put client records through a thorough evaluation before providing coverage. Initially, some employees may have established best practices to do this task well. However, let’s say these individuals left the company, taking their knowledge with them without formally recording these best practices.  What impact will the loss of this best practice have on the company?

With organizational learning, you analyze the process, ask these sorts of questions, and then take this knowledge and add it to an archive or repository that current employees can access. This process establishes a knowledge transfer from those who came before them to prevent any organizational disruptions.

Organizational learning is used to enhance processes by improving access to information. It's the ability to crowdsource knowledge from various parts of your team to others. Knowledge is a resource that can be preserved or lost. Knowledge preservation is a crucial principle of organizational learning. 

The Benefits of Organizational Learning

Organizational learning isn’t a new concept. Organizations have been finding success when they put these processes in place for years now. Some of those benefits have included, but weren’t limited to:

Job satisfaction – Along with creative control and employee feedback, organizational learning is vital in developing a desirable workplace. Having the transparency and the knowledge available to perform your job at the highest level makes people feel more confident and more capable in their roles. The confidence and security they feel drives better morale and job satisfaction across the organization.

Lower turnover – People leave jobs for many reasons: toxic bosses, workplace conflicts, boredom or poor behavior, amongst many others. They also leave if they feel overwhelmed by their jobs or can’t perform the tasks you hired them to do. Establishing a solid organizational learning practice provides the knowledge base, transparency of information and resources employees need to succeed in their roles.

Leadership development – Think about business processes as pieces of fine oak wood. They can be seasoned and enhanced over time. Workflows can be like this, and as the business seasons its knowledge, leadership development often happens as one of the byproducts of organizational learning. With this kind of routine care, companies develop their assets and people achieve greater career advancement through skills and experience.

Succession planning – A consolidated, organized knowledge base is a cornerstone of any good succession planning strategy. Onboarding new employees is streamlined and easier for everyone when everything needed to hit the ground running is all in one place. It also opens up your candidate pool because you can focus more on finding a great culture fit and not just someone who can “do the job.”

How to Promote Organizational Learning at Your Business

There are several guidelines and models available from workplace experts for how you can establish an organizational learning practice at your organization. These helpful tools are an excellent foundation to start educating your employees on how organizational learning works.  

Generally, these models are built on the idea of a life cycle. Each step in the life cycle has its own protocols that contribute to organizational learning outcomes. Understanding each stage of the processes will help you break down organizational learning best practices into parts that you can adapt around your business.

Review and apply these models to your various business processes. Create automated assignments, completion records and other types of tools that assimilate organizational learning into your employee workflow.

Cornerstone can help. Cornerstone Learning is uniquely designed to help your organization enhance its processes and make organizational learning a priority. If you have questions about how Cornerstone Learning could be the perfect product for establishing your organizational learning practices, speak directly with one of our solution consultants today!


Terry LaBan's picture

Cartoon Coffee Break: Support Working Parents During COVID-19

Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon.

Throughout the pandemic, working parents have been juggling caregiver responsibilities with being productive during work hours. As a result, the stress levels of these employees have been significantly higher than those without children. 

It’s up to employers and business leaders to help working parents manage their unique work-from-home challenges. One of the many ways we try to do this at Cornerstone is through our partnership with Sylvan Learning and their virtual tutoring services.

A few other ways companies can support working parents is by creating more flexible work schedules and adjusting xpectations. These efforts signal to your working parents that they have your support and improve their job satisfaction and retention.

Allowing Flexible Work Schedules

In addition to their daily job tasks, working parents have to manage their children’s schedules. Parents have to set up online classrooms and help their child with homework. That’s in addition to completing their own work assignments and attending meetings. 

Employers can help alleviate some of this stress by allowing for flexible work schedules where possible. This way, working parents can design their days so that they prioritize their children’s needs and job tasks at different times of the day. Allow them to take shorter work days or work weeks if necessary—studies show that this can reduce burnout and improve productivity.  

Help Working Parents Redesign Their Jobs 

A recent study found that about 60% of working parents haven’t had any outside help with childcare during the pandemic, resulting in more parents leaving their jobs. Working mothers in particular have been dropping out of the workforce at higher rates than working fathers. 

In order to retain these employees, business leaders may need to temporarily reset job expectations. Start by hosting open conversations with working parents to get a better understanding of the obstacles currently impacting their productivity and overall job satisfaction. Ask them which parts of their job they can and can no longer accomplish, and then allow them to craft a new job description accordingly. 

Through these methods, working parents will feel supported by their employers during this difficult time and, more importantly, stay in the workforce. 

Click here to learn about how Cornerstone's partnership with Sylvan Learning is helping companies support and retain their working parents who are balancing work and childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Cyril Le Mat's picture

Close Your Eyes and Dream Big! What AI Can Bring to HR

Artificial intelligence (AI) in HR remains a mystery to many of us. The application of AI technology in other scenarios is more straight-forward because the goal of AI is clear. For example, AI is used in autonomous vehicles, constantly learning and adjusting to navigate the road better. AI in HR is more complex because its data are very specific and every organization is unique, going through constant change.

HR AI is Tricky and Can’t Be Too Scientific 

As a Data Scientist, I find HR to be one of the most challenging fields in AI for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that HR data is mostly composed of “natural language,” which is prone to interpretation—a difficult task for computers because of localization, synonym and homonym issues.

On top of that, HR data is subjective: people describe themselves and their team members differently based on their own agenda and framework. The language used will differ from person to person, manager to manager. In contrast, data in the legal domain is also natural language, however meant to be clear and objective.

HR concepts themselves are quite blurry. Calling myself a “data scientist” is using a label which is far from giving a clear view of what I’m doing. Using skills to understand a person’s role is a far more precise way of getting accurate data, but even skills must be interpreted with care. For example, two people with “intercultural management” skills could have opposite views of what it means and what the resulting actions are.

In addition, applying science to human behaviors is hard. The human mind is infinitely more complex than any transport route optimization or hotel pricing strategy. We will never have enough data to really understand humans.

Let’s be clear, HR AI can’t be too scientific. A common saying in the AI community is that AI is usually beaten by a human expert. It's especially true in HR, automating entire HR processes is unrealistic.  

However, It Can Lead to Ground-Breaking Features in Human Resource Information Systems

From my experience, AI in HR is not intended to make the decisions for the HR teams, as it is too complex. Instead, AI can bring an understanding to some HR concepts (skills, jobs, resumes, profiles, careers, departments, learning and development) and their relationships (skills on a CV and the level of mastery, skills by roles, links between learning and career paths, careers in certain departments)

This understanding will allow software to have an automatic level of understanding on every data point available across the whole company and:

  • Improve the search/browsing to display appropriate content 
  • Add recommendation for the different HR use cases
  • Better represent the data despite its complexity

The opportunity differs for each user, so let’s look into the details and find out how it could impact employees, HR and candidates:


AI can help users to find the right objects (jobs, mentor, learning, career advice, development path). It can also allow users to express themselves in their own language (e.g. not to choose skills from closed nested lists). Thanks to this, employees will naturally update their data regularly and this data will open new many use cases, such as transversal teams composed based on skills.  

HR teams:

Beyond having more autonomous employees, AI can optimize certain processes by accelerating access to the right data (finding who can do x in BU y, who are the best candidates for z?). It can also help to reduce the need for administration as there is less custom framework to maintain.  

AI can improve analytics and open the door to the "real" Strategic Workforce Planning: What is the company current situation, what are our business needs, what trainings are useful or not, what action should I take to reduce my skill gap? It also opens the door to advanced analytics in order to respond with data to the company's strategic issues (transformation, new acquisition, downsizing, etc). 


Thanks to AI, candidates will give more information to the company in less time, for example what they can and want to do. But it is also true in the other direction; candidates will know what is missing from their skillset to get the job they want. Also it can surface other opportunities: For example, with your profile, you would be among the 10% of the best candidates for our job x, would you be interested? We could also imagine giving a candidate more visibility on a future career in a company, based on examples of similar profiles in the past (and why not have a chat with such employees)? 

These are just some of the examples that I have had the chance to work on. Most of the future possibilities of AI are still to be defined. Overall, the HR challenge in the field of AI masks amazing potential. Contrary to traditional sectors where many scientific approaches are already present and quite usual (for example, nobody expected data science to apply statistics to hotel prices), HR is discovering the potential of their data and the use cases that can be made of it. This is a real leap forward for HR, and we can expect the HRIS to be completely redesigned in the near future. 

As part of our commitment to innovation we are working very hard from the Paris-based Innovation Lab to make AI more and more relevant to our clients. We have created an eBook you can download here about “Realising the True Potential of AI in HR.”

Hungry for more AI blogs? Read my opinion about how AI will humanize the workplace and not replace it. 

The ReWork Editors's picture

HR Labs, DEIB Edition: pymetrics’ Frida Polli on Technology’s Role in Eliminating Bias

We’re thrilled to announce the third season of HR Labs, a podcast that explores how to create a better employee experience for all of your people. This season is hosted by Cornerstone’s Chief Learning Officer and VP of Organizational Effectiveness Jeff Miller and Chief Diversity Officer Duane La Bom. Through conversations with change-makers, activists, executives and experts, they’ll explore strategies for taking diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives from intention to action. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

This week on HR Labs, Jeff sat down with Frida Polli, a neuroscientist turned co-founder and CEO of pymetrics to talk about how technology can further DEIB strategies. Pymetrics is a computer software company that uses cognitive data and AI to remove bias from how companies hire employees. If companies want to move the needle around their DEIB initiatives, Frida says, they need to be more creative and innovative, rethinking standard HR processes—and using technology to drive them. 

How Technology Can Drive DEIB Initiatives From the Ground Up

Many recruiting algorithms today are one-size-fits all, but AI can unlock the opportunity to optimize fairness by looking at candidates from a more human, holistic perspective. 

“We have this mold of what someone is supposed to look like if you're a tech entrepreneur. You're supposed to be Caucasian, young, male, definitely not a single parent,” Frida told Jeff, referencing her own experience with recruiting. “But that's silly. Why are we looking at people that way? Because I'm pretty sure I could be a good entrepreneur and I'm not half of those things.”

The recruiting process, Frida says, shouldn’t suppose that one type of employee is always best. Because people are unique, there are many different kinds of fits—and the recruiting process should account for this. But, how? 

In the case of pymetrics, their software assesses candidates based on their cognitive and emotional make-up (think: soft skills, like altruism and attention). By using algorithms, pymetrics builds a profile of a company’s top performers and bases potential candidates on that, and the algorithms are checked to make sure bias is removed. This approach not only results in a better outcome for the individual, but also for the larger company. 

How Can HR Support Diversity and Inclusion?

Technology is here to stay. As Frida says, “We’re not going to put the genie back in the bottle.” Embracing AI and technology to improve the recruiting process is the first step, but it will also take more than that to create change—it will involve pushing back on traditional processes that have had suboptimal outcomes.

“At the end of the day, we want to make this world equitable. And sometimes that means being bold and taking some risks,” she said. 

Listen to the full conversation below to learn more about how HR teams can think about equity, and using technology to further their DEIB initiatives.

Subscribe to HR Labs and never miss a conversation about strategies for seeing real impact from your DEI&B efforts. Check back in on April 7 to hear Duane’s conversation with Lorraine Vargas Townsend. And, if you’re just joining us, check out previous episodes on unconscious bias, microaggressions, pay equity and engaging white men in DEIB strategies.


Dave Mortell's picture

Empowered Employees: How to Increase Motivation in the New Normal

From the initial phases of transitioning to fully remote work to changes in communications, training and reviews, leaders have needed to make significant changes to equip team members for success.

Following our discussion of the performance management trends in the new normal and the tactics you can employ to improve morale and keep up with your team members, we’re looking at what it takes to keep staff motivated.  

From an increased focus on employee reward programs to expanded allowances and subscriptions, leaders have a variety of opportunities to encourage workers in the era of Zoom fatigue and social isolation.  

Reevaluating Employee Rewards Programs 

Your organization likely faced financial struggles throughout the pandemic. After all, it’s not easy to keep revenues stable—especially when many states haven’t pivoted to a full reopening of the economy.  

While revenue may be short, personal stressors are long. Employees are anxious about the future of the business and their jobs. Layoffs and furloughs have probably cut into your company morale, and many still dread the other shoe dropping.  

Top Spenders Put $0.53 per $1,000 Revenue in Rewards and Retention 

Understandably, despite a decrease in revenue, one area you shouldn’t cut is the employee rewards program. As discussed in a recent CFO article, HR leaders are realizing that one of the most critical areas to maintain or even increase spending is their rewards program. Citing research from APQC, the top 25 percent of performers spend more than three times those in the bottom 25 percent and have helped employees feel more confident in the future.  

“APQC found that companies in the 75th percentile spend the most on this process at $0.53 per $1,000 revenue. Companies within the median spend $0.33 per $1,000 revenue, while those in the 25th percentile spend $0.17 or less.”  – Perry D. Wiggins, CPA, writing for CFO

Even a Small Gesture Pays Dividends in Loyalty 

The CFO article goes on to add that even a small increase to benefits and rewards goes a long way, and there are plenty of more minor gestures that mean a great deal to employees during a difficult time. APQC expert Lisa Ryan adds,  

“The precedent that you are setting right now with your employees may determine their future loyalty to you when this is over. Are you creating an environment that they want to stay in or the kind that makes them want to leave? […] Showing care for your employees to the extent that you are able is one of the best ways to create the kind of environment that employees are proud to call home.” 

It Doesn’t Even Have to Be Monetary 

Depending on how much you have in your coffers, you may not be able to spend on new rewards. While yes, increased benefits can go a long way, being able to show that you have your employees’ backs may work as well. In fact, as discussed in a Rework blog, Jeff Miller, chief learning officer & VP, organizational effectiveness at Cornerstone, said that there are ways to build engagement and motivation outside of providing monetary benefits.  

Citing Daniel Pink’s Ted Talk, Miller highlights three takeaways, most notably the following: 

  • The Mismatch Between Psychology and Business – According to Pink, social psychologists have proven incentive-based rewards not only fail to inspire but can also dull thinking and block creativity.  
  • Three Elements of Motivation – Scientists who study motivation have found these three elements are key to motivate people intrinsically: 1)  People want more autonomy. 2) They want to master their craft. 3) They want to be part of something bigger. Ask how you can deliver. 
  • Traditional Management Drives Compliance; Self-Direction is Key to Engagement – In today's "always-on" world of work, employers often struggle to find the best way to engage their employees. Pink explains that providing employees with autonomy can inspire more personal investment in the work. 

Self-direction, mastery and a demonstrated connection between employee growth and company success are three things that can be addressed by our next motivator—optional training. 

Optional Training: Connect Mastery with Self-Direction 

Employees want to grow, and they want to feel like their employers stand behind them. Stagnation can kill careers, demoralize your workforce, and hold back your company. Growth requires change—and change requires employees to understand how they can do it.  

Employees want to learn. According to LinkedIn, employees are spending 130 percent more time learning, and this can do a lot to match the skills gap—with nearly two-thirds of learning and development pros noting that reskilling the current workforce to fill skills gaps is more of a priority than ever before. 

While mandatory training should be part of your business strategy, optional training takes a different approach—connecting personal and professional growth. Self-directed and designed to encourage mastery and diversity, employing optional learning initiatives can reinforce your commitment to your staff—often with little cost. 

Cornerstone Cares: A Free Platform to Encourage Growth 

There are many free resources available to help encourage mastery and growth. But one learning platform you may have missed is the learning platform developed by the leaders in learning—Cornerstone.  

In response to current events and to support our community, Cornerstone launched a free online public learning platform where you can access essential training anytime, anywhere. Cornerstone Cares is just one way to help leaders and staff focus on personal and professional growth.  

Delivering timely, essential training resources, Cornerstone Cares features online courses designed to help you protect yourself and others from the coronavirus, practice self-care to manage the stress and isolation of quarantine, stay productive while working from home and mitigate or eliminate unconscious biases. 

Allowances and Subscriptions: Benefits in the Remote Era 

Though money may be tight, there are many affordable ways to connect with your employees when working from home. You have to rethink the perks you used to offer, like lunches, on-site gym memberships and telecommuting, which used to be a perk in its own right before it became mandatory.  

Reevaluating the Usefulness of Pre-Pandemic Perks 

As noted by Recruiting Daily, employers and HR leaders need to “reassess all benefits initiatives to ensure they still serve their purpose in a remote-first world. Benefits and rewards should reflect the values of an organization as well as speak to the majority of people who work at the company.” 

The 2020 Global Workforce Revolution Report showed that many employees are looking for support even after the pandemic, with 81 percent of respondents indicating that they would move if they could do so without affecting their work prospects. 

From health and wellness to expanded support for remote workers, the most important benefit continues to be access to healthcare (48 percent). Additionally, 38 percent of employees want their company to offer a home office allowance, and 38 percent also want personal development plans or learning development allowances. 

Supporting Continued Use of the Home Office 

Employees are often paying out of pocket to provide things they normally received in an office environment. Consider whether additional stipends could be offered to keep up with printer maintenance, paper supplies, and even home WiFi and energy bills.  

Tie Perks to Company Values 

But regardless of how you approach your perks, make sure these align with company values. Being able to ask yourself who you are as an employer will drive change. An employer that focuses on empowerment will offer virtual learning opportunities, while another that focuses on creativity will do whatever they can to stoke creative flames. However you approach aligning perks and values, it pays to find affordable and engaging ways to connect with your staff. 

Cornerstone and Educe: Learning, Thriving, and Performing  

Performance Management has always been a challenge. But with the recent events, many have risen to this challenge.  

But much like the transition to work in the new normal, the landscape for operating in it will require the right tools, tactics, and processes to get where you want to be. If you’re looking to put your business in a position for long-term success, Cornerstone and the Educe Group can help. By relying on a leading service provider to implement one of the world’s most powerful talent management platforms, you can empower your users and make the most of your Cornerstone investment

As a Cornerstone partner for over five years, Educe helps organizations at every level better understand and fully leverage Cornerstone’s powerful talent management capabilities. 

To keep learning more about motivating people at work, watch this video of Stacie Grasberger, associate at The Educe Group, and Hendrik Thomas, senior product manager at Cornerstone, discussing how you can address career development in your workplace.

Contact us to learn more about how Educe can help you make the most of your Cornerstone investment. 

The ReWork Editors's picture

Rethinking Learning to Drive Diversity in the Workplace

2020 was a time of disruption: both in how we worked, and in how we thought about ourselves and our ideas of diversity and belonging. Companies have renewed their commitments to diversity, equity, inclusion  and belonging in the workplace, with U.S. companies alone spending $8 billion a year on DEI training. And according to Jeff Miller, Chief Learning Officer at Cornerstone, there’s a noticeable change is taking place in these efforts:

“We’re seeing that people are moving with the world of DEI from more extrinsic motivation—compliance, you have to do it—to a more intrinsically-motivated mindset and driving curiosity,” he said during a recent customer webinar. 

And that curiosity is driving employees to learning content. Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) are the most popular topics in Cornerstone’s Culture and Compliance library, which serves more than 75 million global learners. Miller says learning should be a priority for all companies looking to boost their DEIB strategy. It’s not enough for Human Resources and Learning & Development teams to buy in; managers must learn to oversee inclusive teams, and to facilitate learning opportunities for employees. 

The best place to start? Make impactful learning content available to everyone.

“Good content enables impactful discussion and triggers new ways of thinking. Together, these  deepen the internalization of information and knowledge, and stimulate growth,” Miller says. “Good content gives us the vocabulary and the core tools to lean into deepening our knowledge. Unified language opens people's eyes to be able to talk, learn and grow, strengthening organizational culture.” 

Moving Beyond Diversity as a “Numbers Game”

Together, Miller and other participants in the panel—including Head of Cornerstone Studios, Summer Salomonsen—discussed how to frame, create and utilize learning content more effectively toward diversity initiatives.

Miller said he does worry that some leaders still see diversity as “a numbers game.” “The piece that many people seem to be forgetting is that it’s these unique and different experiences of how people self-identify that enable individuals to look at the same business process, the same product, the same people strategy, but interpret it differently,” Miller says. “When we diversify perspectives, we’re able to see work differently.” 

Companies with more diversity are not just seen as more desirable to work for, but really outperform their competitors, Miller says. Ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their peers, and companies with gender diversity are 15% more likely to do the same. And, inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market. Innovation is more likely to occur when there are diverse voices to bring deeper understanding to challenges. And learning content can be key to bringing these voices to light.

However, it’s important to note that content itself is not a solution for diversity, but rather a tool to be put to use, says Salomonsen. “Content is a way to open dialogue, catalyze opportunities and give your people ways to say ‘This should be different,’ or ‘I’m concerned about this,’ or ‘I want to be better in this way,’” she says. “We need to open the dialogue, and content is a great way to do that.”

Using Content to See Your Business Through a Diversity Lens

Learning content does more than just provide information—it stimulates thought and helps create lasting habits. According to Salomonsen, content should not be seen as homework. “Content should challenge you in some way,” she explains. “You should leave it thinking differently. You should leave it springboarded into a new behavior or a new mindset.”

Salomonsen says the “old way” to develop diversity training was through in-person programs that often involved role play and dialogue, focusing on a goal of “respecting others.” Often, the learning was abstract and employees would leave wondering how to apply what they had learned to their jobs immediately and on a day-to-day basis. 

Similarly, compliance training can be “dry, boring, legalistic, check-this-box, you gotta get it done,” she says. “And yet the goal is, we want to help our employees make better decisions in the moment. We want to protect them and keep them safe.”

So, Summer and her team took a different approach to creating DEI learning. They developed a new strategy that would not only make the content more engaging, it would also make sure DEIB content permeated the organization. In addition to standalone resources, DEIB content is also included in professional skills and leadership learning content as well. “We decided as a team that DEI was not just a topic, it was a way that we wanted to see and create content, and it’s a way to do business,” she says. 

All training on DEI rests on four pillars: unconscious bias, bystander intervention, empowering employees and building trust within teams. The goal is to empower employees to make better in-the-moment decisions and build trust within teams with the goal of creating psychological safety—a foundational element of company culture.

Bringing a Learning Mindset to DEIB

A learning mindset is integral to DEIB efforts, Miller explains—including the understanding that companies might never get it 100% right. The goal is to improve the ability to see differences that may be visible or invisible, he says. 

Learning is a powerful tool for companies to ensure that their DEIB strategy goes beyond surface-level events. “If we believe in diversity as a tool to enhance perspectives of those in the room, we will be better, full stop,” Miller says.

Learn more about how Cornerstone’s diversity content subscription can help support a more inclusive and equitable workforce.

Suzanne Lucas's picture

Dear ReWorker: I Just Can’t Find a Mentor. Help!

Dear ReWorker,

I want to be promoted, and I think I need a mentor. However, there isn't anyone in my company who can help me, and I can't really find someone outside the company either. Do I have to have a mentor to succeed?


Missing a Mentor


Dear Missing,

Your biggest obstacle might be that you’re putting too much weight on the word “mentor.” I’ve never had a formal mentor, but I’ve had plenty of people who have had a profound impact on my career. 

In fact, some of them may not know that they mentored me. Here are some examples:

  • Susan Heathfield taught me how to use my unique voice in my writing.

  • Pamela Kruger taught me how to charge for my work and that my writing had value.

  • Alison Green taught me how to moderate comments online.

  • Sesil Pir taught me how to expand my client group and reach.

  • Kristen Pressner taught me how to advocate for myself and my speaking career.

I could make this list exponentially longer. There were employment lawyers who tutored me in law, a manager who taught me how to effectively run a meeting, and many others. And of course, I’ve read many books whose authors have helped me, too.

While having an ongoing relationship with a single mentor can be a valuable thing, you don’t have to have one person who encompasses all the knowledge and wisdom that you’re seeking. You’re looking for a mentor who can do all these things, but what you need is just mentorship.

That, you can find on your own. Here’s how:

Join a Professional Networking Organization

No matter what your career is, there’s likely a professional organization within that industry that holds meetings or conferences and shares resources—newsletters, forums, etc. Here’s a whole list of professional networks that aim to increase diversity in tech, for example. Find something that makes sense for your field, and join it. You’ll make connections and friends, and you will learn from these people. And guess what? You’ll also help mentor others.

Become Active on LinkedIn

Follow people in your field. Comment on their posts. Share their posts. Post your own ideas. You will be amazed at the free information you can learn on LinkedIn. Ignore the people with 300,000 followers. They won’t help you as much as everyone likes to think they will. You want to follow the people who are working every day in your field, so look for individuals who engage with others regularly. You never know what a simple conversation on a social platform can blossom into—a person you interact with could be your next manager, colleague or mentor. 

Grow Your Skill Set 

Are there skills that you’re lacking but need to progress in your career? Do you need help identifying these skills? There are a few ways to tackle these challenges. If your company has a learning management system, there’s likely technology available to help you grow and develop. For example, some of today’s tools can apply artificial intelligence to assess the skills you already have and, based on your individual career goals, recommend courses and materials to put you on the right path. 

If your company doesn’t have an LMS, however, there’s a more informal approach you can follow. Go back to LinkedIn and look at roles that appeal to you, or individuals whose careers inspire you. Make a list of the accomplishments and skills that stand out to you, and get to work. Want to learn how to code? Take a free online course. Need to brush up on your public speaking? Join Toastmasters or volunteer to present at a conference. Take learning into your own hands and master the skills you want. 

Don’t let the lack of a formal mentor hold you back. This is a hurdle you can overcome with a bit of creativity and a look at the talent and resources that already surround you.


Your ReWorker

Suzanne Lucas,

For more advice from our ReWorker, read her column here.

The ReWork Editors's picture

Reskilling And Upskilling In An Ever-Changing World: How Assicurazioni Generali Helps Its People To Flourish

This article originally appeared on Cornerstone’s UK blog

With over 73,000 employees globally and operating in the fast-paced and ever-changing insurance industry, training its people and keeping them up to speed is essential forItalian insurance company, Assicurazioni Generali. With its brilliant, highly customizable and user-friendly global learning program, We LEARN, powered by Cornerstone, users can access learning in their own time and preferred format, tailor and personalize learning and get a clear understanding of where they may need to work on some of their skills. Through this, Generali is finding new ways to make learning engaging, fun and adaptable to make sure its people can flourish and reach their full potential.

Starting With the Basics: How to Know What Skills are Missing  

In some of Cornerstone’s own recent research, we found that shockingly, 40% of people don’t feel enabled to develop their skills with the resources their company provides. When companies don’t have the right resources to help their people, this is a wasted opportunity and is likely to create a lasting skills gap. Moreover, a McKinsey study recently found that many organizations believe skill building is a more effective way to close the skills gap than hiring new talent. This is exactly what Generali’s platform is doing. 

The platform offers one place for all its people from across the globe to come together on a highly interactive learning journey with high-quality courses. It also promotes digital learning and distance learning to counteract any contact restrictions currently in place. Generali’s content library is jam-packed full of both its own great content and Cornerstone’s Content Anytime offering. 

With so many courses and options available, it can be difficult for users to know exactly where to start and can even feel slightly daunting or overwhelming. This is where the skills assessment within the program comes in particularly handy. Generali has created a content-based questionnaire to help users identify the right learning paths for them and to highlight potential gaps in their knowledge. This helps users to tailor their learning to their current roles or the roles they are aspiring for. 

Smaller Content to Absorb, Bigger Skills to Gain 

Content in the We LEARN library allows users to access the training they need in that moment and to also share their skills and learning. Course breakdowns make it simple for users to both upskill and reskill, depending on where their skill gaps may be. As well as the general courses for basic training, users can enroll into Mini-masters courses which are dedicated to very specific roles. This offering helps people move into new roles and makes transitions between roles internally much easier. Job roles are evolving every day, so to mediate this change, Generali also offers training that concentrates on new skills for evolving roles. These digital and virtual classroom courses are aimed at spreading new skills which will help Generali’s people to succeed in their current roles now and in the future.

The long-term effect of working from home has had a clear impact on our attention spans and instant gratification is more important than ever. Generali’s short and interactive training makes learning easily accessible in shorter amounts of time. This way of working offers more control to employees with more flexibility, resulting in greater productivity. Generali’s people are more engaged, and the quality of the training has significantly improved too. This agile approach to learning means that people can really go at their own pace and the intuitive user experience is helping to inspire lifelong learners.

With an average of 21,000 monthly unique user logins, the platform is clearly having a huge impact on Generali’s people! Since implementing the program, 60 new skills have been identified and the number of users is continuing to rise. It’s clear this hard work and effort from the team is impacting its people; helping to close those skill gaps and keep its people prepared for anything.

Click here to find out more about other customer brands and use cases, and why many of the world’s leading organizations trust Cornerstone OnDemand. 

Mike Bollinger's picture

3 Ways to Show Employees You’re Invested in Skills Development

The skills revolution accelerated overnight—and is now upon us. In a global research survey, Cornerstone identified a serious confidence gap between employers and employees about their ability to consume skills development. Developing critical skills in a way that’s effective and meaningful for employees is a challenge, and these challenges exist across companies, industries, and the globe. This series will examine how leaders can enable skills development and empower their people and their organizations to thrive in the future.

Employees today expect companies to take an active role in their development. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn, as more training is linked to improved self-confidence, better job performance and improved time management skills.

But just because you're investing in L&D doesn't mean that your employees are getting the message. Our research shows that 90% of business leaders feel confident in their ability to develop their employees’ skills. But employees have much less confidence in their organization’s ability to develop and equip them with critically needed skills—only 60% of employees feel this same confidence.

In addition to simply making an investment, companies need to ensure that they're communicating about learning investments and opportunities, tying learning back to company goals and fostering employee-led career growth through L&D.

Prioritize Transparent Communication About Development

Don’t assume your efforts to prioritize training are obvious to your employees: Tell employees across all types of skills groups what investments you’re putting toward learning and development. And it shouldn’t just be a one-time conversation. Will your employees remember about resources you pointed them to once during an onboarding session? Frequently reminding your employees about what options are available to them can help them feel more in control of their growth and development.

Transparency about learning and development also means acknowledging areas where you’re still looking to improve. Identifying obstacles and demonstrating that you have a plan to clear them helps build trust and signal to your employees that you’re actively thinking about their futures. 

Embed Skills Development into Your Company Strategy

Ideally, learning and development should fit with your organization’s goals and your broader business plan—but according to our research, only 55% of companies believe their L&D programs are well-aligned with their overall direction. Not only is this important for the performance of the business, it’s critical to the performance of your employees: Research from McKinsey suggests that employees perform best when employee goals are linked to business priorities

How can you help align skills development with your company’s larger goals? Start with these steps to help build momentum: 

  • Have managers create personalized development plans for everyone on their teams. 

  • Map employees to a larger talent plan or create a list of short-term priorities you need for skill building.  

  • Locate adjacent skills that can help your employees reskill to new tasks or responsibilities

  • Involve talent leaders in strategic business conversations.

With a clearer understanding of the role learning and development plays in the organization, employees are more likely to understand where they—and their growth path—fit in. 

Create Skills Opportunities Filled With Meaning

Remember: skill development is a shared responsibility. When employees are able to find meaning in their work, they’re more likely to tap into their skill set, collaborate with others and reach their full potential. Encourage managers to take the time to listen carefully to employees and discover what they find most engaging about their work, or what else they hope to learn. Use these conversations to find stretch assignments or to uncover opportunities for non-linear career progression. 

Matching workers to training that’s aligned with their existing capabilities and their future interests makes it more likely that they can transition to emerging positions and help meet new needs within the organization. This will also help demonstrate to your employees that they are in the driver’s seat of their growth, providing motivation for them to be the best versions of themselves.  

Looking for more practical next steps you can take to address and enable skills development to empower your people — and organization — to thrive in the future? Download our ebook, Bridge the Workforce Skills Gap: 3 Key Places to Start.

Adrienne Shulman's picture

How to Take an Intentional Approach to Inclusive Leadership

Living and working in the digital age, with its constant change and new innovations, is both exhilarating and at times frightening. There has never been more opportunity, yet we’re all at risk of being disrupted at any time. At Cornerstone we often say “tomorrow will look nothing like today,” but since no one knows what the future will bring, what can individuals and organizations do to ensure that we are not the ones being disrupted? The answer to this question lies in understanding a key difference between the digital age we’re living through and previous industrial revolutions.   

The digital age allows you to tap into a world market easier and faster than ever before.  It’s how Cornerstone can deliver Talent solutions to 75 million users across over 180 countries. But to take advantage of a global market, you need to understand the world. And there is no better way to do this than by creating and developing diverse and inclusive teams. Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is more important for business than ever: a truly diverse team increases team intelligence, offering different perspectives and skill sets.

Despite these trends, companies have been slow to successfully implement D&I, and inclusion specifically has lagged. One 2020 survey suggests that while 9 in 10 employees described their companies as diverse, 3 in 10 said they didn't feel a sense of inclusion or belonging at work. Even if a company has hired a diverse team, it won’t benefit from increased team intelligence unless employees feel they belong: employees who don’t feel included will keep their ideas and opinions to themselves. Think about every cringe-worthy Super Bowl commercial you’ve seen, and you’ll understand the dangers of people being afraid to share their opinion. 

In 2019, I was tapped to lead the D&I initiative within Cornerstone’s tech org. I quickly realized that a true sense of inclusion has to start with the leadership team, because leaders are the ones who drive social norms at companies. Their actions have a trickle-down effect. So I implemented a plan to drive inclusive leadership at Cornerstone—and in the process I learned a great deal about what defines inclusive leadership, how to implement it, and how it can continue to evolve. 

What Does an Inclusive Leader Look Like—and Why Do They Matter?

When our CTO asked me to take on this effort to increase D&I in Cornerstone’s tech org, I didn’t get busy creating employee resource groups or mentoring programs targeting minorities. Instead I gave myself six months to achieve one very strategic goal: convince the 20-person tech leadership team that inclusion is integral to our strategic vision for the company. In that time, I acted as a coach and D&I advocate to these leaders, helping them first understand what it means to be an inclusive leader.

Harvard Business Review research suggests that there are six core traits of inclusive leaders:

  1. Visible commitment 

  2. Humility 

  3. Awareness of bias

  4. Curiosity about others

  5. Cultural intelligence

  6. Effective collaboration

Inclusive leaders pay attention to who's invited to meetings, they don't tolerate disrespect, and they make sure the loudest person in the room is not doing all the talking. And by modeling inclusive practices, they drive social norms at the company. 

Think about unconscious bias training at companies today. If employees hear about this training from the HR department, people will look at it like a box to check. But when your CTO or manager says, ‘Hey, this is really important. And here are all the benefits we get as an organization, as people,’ it changes people's behavior. 

How to Be an Inclusive Leader

Becoming an inclusive leader is a process that starts with the first of HBR’s traits: commitment. If you commit to being an inclusive leader, the rest of the traits will follow. 

As a biracial woman with a 20-year career in software engineering, I am all too familiar with the experience of being an “only,”: the only woman on a team, in a room, or at a leadership table. This made it easy for me to think I would be more naturally inclusive and able to counteract my biases at work. But then, during a one-on-one meeting, a member of my team called me out. She told me that she felt unappreciated and excluded when I recognized a group of employees for their work and neglected to include her in that recognition—even though she was a major contributor to the project. 

It was an important learning moment for me, but also one that wouldn’t have happened had I not committed to building trust. She felt safe to share how she felt and knew I was open to hearing about mistakes I make.  

As I was working with my peers on the leadership team, I challenged them to build the same openness and trust with their teams. I asked them to think: When was the last time someone called you out about your bias? When was the last time someone disagreed with you? If no one challenges you, it’s not because you are perfect. Most of the time, employees aren’t going to be forthcoming with tough feedback—as a leader, you have to invite that feedback, listen to the feedback without reacting, and then learn from it and change your behaviors.   

Driving Long-Term Inclusive Leadership

Ultimately, I met the goal I set for myself in the first six months—and it had exactly the impact I was hoping for. The leaders prioritized D&I and as a result, employees began raising their hands to participate. The visible commitment demonstrated by leaders gave employees permission to organize and start speaking out. We quickly had 50 volunteers to work on different committees internally to drive ongoing change and advance D&I through all areas of our technology department.

Since then, we’ve seen many examples of inclusive leadership in action, like how our leadership team recently took advantage of remote work to invite more people to the table for our annual cloud summit, where we make decisions about our tech stack. Instead of a small group of people gathered at headquarters, we had 100 people from around the world participate. And it was by far our most successful and insightful summit yet.

Inclusive leadership is, above all, an ongoing journey. You can never put this on auto pilot. You’re always learning. And as we saw with the pandemic, things change all the time; inclusive leadership is about constantly expanding your understanding of people and culture, and consistently adjusting the work environment to ensure everyone has a sense of belonging and contributing fully. 

To learn more about inclusive leadership, check out insights from industry experts below. And for even more insights and strategies to build an inclusive culture in the workplace, tune into Season 3 of HR Labs, where we focus each episode on strategies to take D&I from intention to action. 

Dave Mortell's picture

What Performance Management Trends Can Leaders Implement in the New Normal?

The past year has left an indelible mark on the workplace. Employee relationships are changing, goals have to be reset and companies have relied on an increasing number of communication channels. How has this changed the way we work? How can managers take steps to lead employees through the continued change?  

After discussing some of the most common trends noticed by leaders navigating the new normal—an increase in ongoing and informal reviews, a broadening variety of communication styles and channels, and a diversifying selection of engagement programs—we’re pivoting our attention to succeeding in this environment. 

Whether it’s through rethinking the way you measure employee morale, increasing the number of check-ins with employees, or implementing new systems to understand performance or recalibrate goals, how you adapt to the new normal requires HR leaders to go beyond the traditional practices that worked in an office environment. 

So here’s how can you adapt your day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month initiatives to increase engagement, performance and morale.  

Focus on Employee Morale Management 

In general, employees thrive on stability—and a stable office can go a long way to keeping morale from dropping. Changes—ranging from a small update to the break policy to a major shift in the business model—can be a distraction, or worse, a detriment.   

The Unending Pace of Change in Employee Morale and Engagement 

Throughout 2020, studies have shown a roller coaster of engagement and morale. Scroll through Gallup polls, and you’ll see a historic drop in employee engagement a month after they report a historic rise and twenty days before they report that employee engagement has hit an all-time high

This continued roller coaster in engagement is likely paired with the adjustment but also demonstrates an incredibly volatile environment. Job stability continues to be a concern even with a recovering economy. Work-life balance has become a challenge when work and life happen in the same location. And even after six months, some of your employees might not be used to having to move the office so they can eat dinner.  

But morale concerns among management and employees go a lot deeper. Has someone gotten cut off in a Zoom call because the interrupter was oblivious to the conversation? Worse, has someone taken credit for a project because of the challenge in team tracking? Is an employee still panicking over an email that looked a bit more curt than normal?  

Rumination over negative emotional stress lasts a lot longer than the fleeting emotional bump that comes from praise.  

Focusing on Morale: More Important Today Than Ever 

As a leader, finding ways to keep morale steady and growing is more important than ever. Employees will remember if they weren’t treated as well as they deserved. And if they were, they’ll be the first on the way out. 

That’s why a focus on employee morale today can go a long way to not only bring the most out of your staff but keep them productive throughout the recovery and return to normalcy. That said, you can’t manage without measurement—and your job is to understand whose morale is trending in which direction.  

As the employment landscape continues to shift, employers should explore new, virtual ways to motivate and engage their employees. Whether it’s helping your employees spotlight and discuss the things they’re passionate about, reinvigorating focus on mentorship, or establishing smarter two-way communication, every small step in the right direction helps keep morale up. 

The Power of Check-Ins 

Companies that move from scheduled and formal review processes to informal check-ins and continuous performance management can reduce stress and increase performance.  

Check-ins are designed to provide informal and growth-focused guidance to employees. Part of an initiative focused on continuous performance management, check-ins can keep recognition in the mind of employees, make employees feel more welcome and help show a tighter connection between employee activities and company goals.  

The Anatomy of a Check-In 

While they vary by organization, check-ins are typically informal performance conversations initiated by either the manager or the employee. Relying on a shorter timeframe than annual or even quarterly reviews, both employees and managers can upload documentation and track progress easily—without the recency bias or anxiety that goes into the alternative. 

In turn, a move to provide check-ins give employees a platform to ask for help and discuss concerns and frustrations directly with their manager.  

How to Shift from Formal to Frequent 

Understandably, the thought of unscheduled and informal discussions might petrify managers and employees alike, but a well-communicated and well-sold shift can show everyone why frequency can benefit both sides.  

By communicating the positive aspects to the employees and upper management, you can increase the likelihood of buy-in and adoption, while beginning to push this strategy towards larger continuous engagement strategies.  

Recalibrating KPIs and Goals 

Along with the increased focus on check-ins and engagement, you’ll need to rethink what this all means as well. Though the traditional performance review process relied on large initiatives, it left a lot to be desired when it came to the progress and growth that companies need from employees.  

These smaller goals must be easy to set and aligned with the company initiatives. Not only will this help employees see a light at the end of the tunnel, but the increased number of check-ins will also help them understand how their work impacts the company.  

Aligning Goals: Your Path to Engagement 

With one of the biggest reasons for disengagement being a feeling of disconnection, your ability to link tasks to goals without micromanaging employees can put both sides of a check-in on better footing.  

As discussed in the Educe Group whitepaper Transforming Performance Management,  

“The purpose of goal alignment is to showcase how each employee in an organization is directly affecting the firm. This creates synergy within a company as individuals work collectively toward a common objective. It also ensures that employees create relevant goals that are meaningful to the organization. Providing visibility into what is important to the company and how the individual can contribute, assures the employee that the work they are doing is meaningful.” 

A New Approach to Measurement 

The increase in the frequency of check-ins should be paired with a move from big-time to bite-sized. Managers and employees will explore the small steps in the right direction that each can take to achieve long-term goals.  

To achieve this, you need to move away from traditional, stuffy, measurement metrics. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are designed to combine a variety of data points into metrics that highlight not only basic performance but the underlying drivers of it as well. This helps management understand the actions employees are taking and helps them better coach employees. 

Cornerstone and Educe: Learning, Thriving and Performing  

Performance Management has always been a challenge. But with the recent events, many have risen to this challenge.  

But much like the transition to work in the new normal, the landscape for operating in it will require the right tools, tactics, and processes to get where you want to be. If you’re looking to put your business in a position for long-term success, Cornerstone and the Educe Group can help. By relying on a leading service provider to implement one of the world’s most powerful talent management platforms, you can empower your users and make the most out of your Cornerstone investment. 

As a Cornerstone partner for over 5 years, the Educe Group helps organizations at every level better understand and fully leverage Cornerstone’s powerful talent management capabilities. 

To keep learning more about preparing for emerging performance management trends, watch this video of Stacie Grasberger, associate at The Educe Group, and Hendrik Thomas, senior product manager at Cornerstone, discussing how shifting your organization to a continuous performance review process can prepare you for any new trend. 

Contact us to learn more about how Educe can help you make the most of your Cornerstone investment.

The ReWork Editors's picture

What is Equal Pay Day and Why is It so Important?

We build so much of our schedules around holidays and other important days of observance. These days’ predictable consistency is one of their best traits. But for Equal Pay Day, its inconsistent date is the point. 

Each year, whatever day Equal Pay Day falls on represents how many more days US women need to work to earn the same amount as US men did in the previous year. This year, it's March 24, 2021. That's 82 extra days! The goal of Equal Pay Day is to eventually be on January 1 every year because that would mean pay for women and men is finally equal. 

Like we did for International Women’s Day just a few weeks ago, we spoke to some thought leaders from around Cornerstone about Equal Pay Day. Steffani Frias, director, total rewards, and Jeremy Spake, senior principal, talked to us about Equal Pay Day's importance, why it's crucial in 2021, and what you can do to ensure pay fairness at your company. But first…

What is Equal Pay Day?

Started in 1996, Equal Pay Day is a variable holiday symbolizing the wage gap between women and men. The date is different each year and represents the number of days women need to work to make the same amount of money as men.  

Why is Equal Pay Day so Important?

Equal Pay Day is important because women are important. Ensuring equity in people processes is critical for talent management professionals, and one of the most impactful ways to do this is to ensure people are compensated fairly. 


Given all other factors being equal, if a man earns $100k from January 1 to December 31, a US woman has to work, on average, all the way to March 24 of the following year to make the same amount. This is to say that women make $0.82 to every $1 a man makes. And that's just the average. When you add on the further intersections of race, the differences are even starker. Asian-American women are slightly above the average, with their Equal Pay Day being March 9 ($0.85/$1). While Black women's Equal Pay Day is August 3 ($0.63/$1), Native women's Equal Pay Day is September 8 ($0.60/$1), and for Latinx women, it is October 21 ($0.55/$1), so almost a full second year! Looking at this data highlights for us the deleterious effects of how unconscious bias often shows itself in compensation.


To Jeremy's points, today is really about raising awareness of gender pay gaps. Women and allies are all in this moment of real change. We have the opportunity to continue taking action towards ending an inequality that has persisted for centuries. 

One of the things I like to draw attention to is the counter-argument that we don't directly compare men and women doing the same job when we measure the wage gap. That's a purposeful choice. It helps us capture the multitude of factors driving the gender pay imbalance that would get lost in just one-to-one comparisons. Factors like the differences in types of jobs, years of experience, and hours worked are drivers of the gender wage gap. Women are disproportionately impacted by the social norms that pigeonhole them as “caregivers” and other unpaid obligations. And then the skills these women honed — project management, financial management, people management, etc. — during all those hours of unpaid work aren’t seen as “professional” or “relevant experience.”  

These "norms" are societally perpetuated. Over and over again, women and men are funneled into these different industries and jobs based on antiquated gender definitions and expectations. And with Covid, we see these confining social norms impacting women even further. 

The Impacts of the Pandemic  

By now, most of us have seen statistics about the impact the coronavirus pandemic had on women in the workforce. And they're sobering. 


The pandemic has hit women especially hard. According to a study from McKinsey & Company, nearly 56 percent of workforce exits since the start of the pandemic have been women, and women previously made up 48 percent of the US workforce — almost half. Not just that, but McKinsey & Company also found that employment for women isn't projected to return to its pre-pandemic numbers until at least 2024. That's millions of women forced to struggle for years just to get back to making $0.82 for every dollar a man makes. 


And as with most things, everything is worse for women of color

And it's not like this started with the pandemic. There was a study from I think 2019 that showed that most white women [66 percent] agreed that women make less than men, but way fewer agreed [34 percent] that they made more than non-white women for doing the same work. Equal Pay Day shows us that is categorically false, and it's hard to be an ally when you don't see the problem.

To create more equity, leaders need to take action and address the biases that cause the wage gap and equity gaps. That's why there's no better time than this Equal Pay Day to introduce and ensure pay fairness at your organization. 

How You Can Ensure Pay Fairness at Your Company

Gender is a social construct. We're the ones who set the "rules" for who can do what and for how much. And that means we can also change those rules. It will just take some work


We see a lot of interest and engagement from leaders for a generally more diverse workforce. They're asking their talent teams to show them where they can do better. "Show us where we stand and the things we can actively act on." When leaders are invested and employees feel valued, people are more satisfied and invested in their work. 

To do that, you definitely have to ground your comp programs in fairness. Check to see that if you're reviewing at a set baseline determined by market data. Regardless of gender, age, race, etc., is this fair? These are not things we always see happening, but we do see a lot of intentionality and evaluation to try and affirm what's fair. 


To add to what Steffani said, the market data piece is absolutely integral and critical, but also, before it comes to rewarding performance, how are you rating performance? That's another point where unconscious bias shows up in talent management programs. And that's why calibration processes are the best practice. 

In an ideal world, you've got continuous performance management happening, so you're collecting data about someone's performance over the course of a year, not just at the end of it. Then when you're making these kinds of overarching performance decisions, you've got all this data and all these other people in the room to calibrate ratings. You can now compare and contrast how one manager rates a person compared to how other managers rate their people. "Does a four-out-of-five-star employee look the same to you and to me?" 

Calibration is critical to making sure everyone understands the performance baseline and what success looks like in your organization - and then that market data baseline Steffani is talking about is used to establish rates for specific roles in specific geographies or industry sectors. That fairness component comes into play when you're evaluating people's performance during calibration, and then the market data piece adds on to that. Those two things have to work in tandem together.


100 percent, Jeremy. 

Ensuring pay fairness is such an important topic that we felt we wouldn't do it justice if we didn't give it its own, detailed, how-to blog post. Stay tuned for that later this month. 

Continuing the Conversation

Thank you, Steffani and Jeremy, for taking the time to talk to us. If you want more information on how you can start or improve your organization's equal pay initiatives, be sure to listen to our recent HR Labs podcast episode. Activist and pay equity icon Lily Ledbetter talks to us about how to negotiate salary, equal pay for equal work, how companies can make swift, effective change, and so much more.


Ike Bennion's picture

Learning in the Flow of Work: Anticipating Learners’ Needs

Over the past year, we as an industry have noted just how drastically the nature of work has evolved, from the shift to remote and more flexible environments, to the growing importance of skills over traditional credentials. But one area that’s largely missing from the conversation thus far has been the need to transform how employees learn on the job.

Imagine working on a financial statement in Microsoft Excel, only to realize that you aren’t familiar with a specific formula that’s essential to the project. There’s a video available on your company Intranet—but it’s only 30 minutes long, it’s also from two years ago, and designed for an outdated version of the software. When there’s a looming deadline, this doesn’t cut it. The pace of work is accelerating, and the skills gap is real. Workers are facing growing pressure to deliver results quickly, yet they’re often dealing with new challenges, new technology or performing unfamiliar tasks. 

At its core, learning in the flow of work is a basic concept: the goal is to serve up the right content, in the right place, at the right time to meet a learner’s concrete need and desire to develop. In practice, that means that when you’re creating that financial statement in Excel, an integration with your learning platform enables you to use a toolbar right within Excel to search for and find content that can help—say, a 15 second video clip that’s best-suited to show you the formula you need quickly and effectively. Sounds simple, but the inner workings of this personalized, highly-targeted approach to learning are much more sophisticated.

To be an effective resource for today’s remote, fast-moving, and technologically-empowered employee, the right learning resource must be delivered in a moment of need. That’s why we are building learning in the flow of work as a key feature of our LMS, and our LXP which is currently in development.

Learning in the Flow of Work Delivers the Right Content When It’s Most Needed

There are “learning in the flow” integrations out in the market today, but many just put notification in new applications.  What learning in the flow of work really should do is provide push and pull tools to find relevant learning in the places where employees work every day. In fact, the technology helps eliminate the need for learners to toggle into their learning platform or company Intranet for content or open up their browser to Google a solution, enhancing their focus. 

On top of saving learners’ time, learning in the flow of work can use a key layer of additional context to provide employees with content: their existing skills. We’ve shared how our skills graph works to match multiple dimensions of a person to the multiple dimensions of a job, using not only their existing skills but also their interests, goals and other facets of their development. Learning in the flow of work can leverage this insight to drive content recommendations, resulting in a more useful and customized piece of content that elevates employees’ work output and furthers their growth. 

Anticipating Learner’s Needs 

The heart of learning in the flow of work is to better meet learner needs, but there is potential to take the technology a step further and anticipate these needs even before they arise. For example, there are common reasons why learning happens—an employee gets a new role, or has to use a new technology, or is working on a stretch assignment. There’s even the possibility that they need specific training or credentials to gain physical access to a facility they haven’t yet been to. Learning in the flow of work can help make those transitions easier and take some of the burden off of learners and administrators. 

With more of the right data about users we can pick up and use these signals to deliver the right content in the right times and places. Like through data from other Cornerstone solutions, learning in the flow of work will have recognized that an employee has recently been promoted to a new role, which means they’ll need support in building new skills or other learning materials. 

Fueling the Future of Learning

This may sound futuristic, but it’s not too far off. We are laying the foundations right now, and it’s just the beginning. As our skills AI continues to mature and ingest more content across the web and within an organization’s intellectual property environment, it’ll only become more sophisticated in delivering content when employees need it—and even before they realize that they do. 

Our aim is to bring learning closer to work than it has ever been before. The result? A more empowered, happy, and productive workforce.

For more reading on the increasing prioritization of skills development and best practices for rolling out training programs, check out our global report, “A License to Skill: Embracing the Reskilling Revolution.”

Cyril Le Mat's picture

Artificial Intelligence Will Humanize Work, Not Replace It

This piece was originally published on the Cornerstone Blog.

Today we are inundated with articles, interviews and Tweets about artificial intelligence (AI) from people who aren’t aware of the technological reality. They simply shamelessly tap into an imaginary world of competition and submission in order to generate more and more emotion and clicks.

As an AI expert, I wish to shed some light on what is involved in the development of these new tools, which may turn out to be more human than one might think. Because the reality is: what we call artificial intelligence is just a succession of specialised tools, each one dedicated to the optimisation of a single repetitive task. A classic example is medical imaging, where an algorithm will analyse hundreds of images for a specific cancer in order to propose a diagnosis to the doctor. AI is nothing more than what we decide to make it.

A human technology that has the potential to relieve employees of daunting tasks…

Above all, AI makes it possible to automate often repetitive, sometimes thankless, actions that were previously carried out by employees. We must put an end to the preconceived idea that we would put the majority of human activity in a company into the hands of machines. AI must be approached as a technological opportunity that frees up employees’ time and helps them to make decisions.

…and to bring value to employees and the company

Employees will therefore be able to concentrate on other, more “human” tasks, where they will have more added value. On the one hand, they will be able to focus on their creativity, innovation and analysis; on the other hand, they will be able to devote themselves to human relationships and communication, whether internal or external.  For example, a nurse will be able to spend more time with her patients. In this way, AI gives back meaning to work, an essential demand from younger generations.

A phenomenon that will increase with the maturity of the technology

Opaque in its operation, AI is a tool that requires interaction in certain aspects similar to that between humans. The solutions known to the general public are still far off from maturity. Indeed, the main goal of GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) is to keep users captive by not providing them with steering tools or justification. However, it is necessary to ensure that humans and AI understand each other on both the questions and the answers! Collaboration with humans is a crucial issue for enterprise solutions, the progress of which will positively affect the reality of work.

Let’s not be naïve, job losses caused by AI will occur. But the reality will be far from the predictions of some think tanks or theorists announcing the elimination of 30% to 90% of current jobs. Humans are far from having lost their place in business. With the development of AI solutions at work, employees will turn to more rewarding activities and goals for more fulfilling careers.

To learn more about why an employee-centric approach to advancing AI in the workplace matters, download our whitepaper: Realizing the True Potential of AI in HR.


Jeffrey Pfeffer's picture

Learning Corner with Jeffrey Pfeffer: Big Results Often Come From Small Actions

Companies today confront omnipresent business challenges ranging from unanticipated pandemics to economic dislocations to climate challenges to an ever-increasing pace of technological change and foreign competition. At the core of all of these challenges is a demand for adaptability and change. 

In response, companies often hire consulting firms and pay huge fees for what they expect will be transformative advice. However, I’ve found that the biggest business transformations, those that meet change and adaptability head on, are often generated by consistently implementing small—but important—actions. While they might seem minor, here are three tips to consider that could help drive change in your organization.

1. Prioritize What Matters Most

Gary Loveman became COO of Harrah’s Entertainment (later to become Caesar’s) in 1998 and CEO in 2003. When he joined in 1998, Loveman had no prior management experience, but his tenure was a huge success precisely because he focused on the little things. By the time the company went private in 2007, its stock price had soared from the mid-teens when he entered, to the buyout price of $90 a share. 

One of Loveman’s fundamental management principles is that efforts focused on a small number of priorities in areas that are fundamentally important can drive exceptional returns. So when he arrived as COO, he reduced the scope of what most of his top team was responsible for, having them focus solely on the initiatives that were most critical to company success. 

With his top team laser focused on those areas, Loveman also set his sights on a specific area of the business: growing revenue from those who visited Harrah’s, but didn’t gamble there. Taking the goal of increasing visits by one, with the eventual goal of turning into paying customers, he directed his larger team to focus simply on delighting customers with exceptional, cohesive customer service. 

In order to provide that service, Loveman knew he had to reduce employee turnover, which he did through more realistic job previews, more rigorous, evidence-based selection, and making sure employees received their schedules with enough notice so that they could arrange to cover other obligations. Instead of doing many things at once, Loveman focused on one subset of customers and dug to the root of how to make them beneficial to the business. A number of small tweaks built up to a larger, tangible success for Caesar’s.

2. Find a Mantra To Ladder Up To

When Amir Dan Rubin became CEO of Stanford Hospital (later renamed Stanford Healthcare), he held a management meeting with his senior team. He was asked the “strategy question”: What was his strategy to improve performance at a hospital that was barely breaking even, had an emergency department operating at the fifth percentile, and was seeing low patient satisfaction scores?

Rubin’s answer? Improve the patient experience. That was it? Yes, he repeated. Rubin also used a simple, endlessly repeated mission statement: “Healing humanity, through science and compassion, one patient at a time.” Improving the patient experience was the tip of the spear that drove all sorts of improvements in operations. 

In a health care system, the patient experience is the result of interactions with the people patients come into contact with. Therefore, Rubin placed a high priority on people operations, including providing training in systems to onboard employees more effectively, best practices for hiring the best people who would fit the organizational culture and values, and well-designed procedures for rewarding people in the organization.

Rubin, like Loveman, liked to measure the incremental changes. An advocate of total quality principles, he had each department at Stanford Healthcare figure out meaningful measures to reach their goals—for instance, the time required to answer the phone or the time patients had to wait to for appointments—and then ensured that these measures were displayed in charts and graphs to make them salient for employees on the ground. Coupled with the “one patient at a time” mantra, these visualizations helped keep employees engaged and on track. 

3. Match Your Physical (or Virtual) Presence to Where Value is Created

Many companies overemphasize headquarters and direct insufficient attention to people who actually perform the main business services, in the locales where that work occurs. Total Renal Care (now called DaVita) was on the verge of bankruptcy when Kent Thiry became CEO in 1999. One of the first things Thiry did was to move focus and resources from corporate headquarters to the dialysis centers. 

Even though the company was strapped financially, he invested heavily in front-line training for both dialysis center managers and front-line employees. Over the ensuing years, the stock price has soared and the company has consistently outperformed industry benchmarks for the quality of patient care

By actively deciding where the heart of your organization will be—and naming it—employees are granted access. Rubin, for example, insisted that leaders in all of the Stanford Hospital functions, including non-patient facing ones such as finance and purchasing, made rounds through the hospital (the headquarters) twice a month to talk to patients and front line staff—and that included him. As he noted, everybody thinks they know what is going on—but unless they are physically present and available, they are too distant to understand the day-to-day details that make all the difference. 

As work evolves into a fully remote or hybrid model, finding ways to forge connections (even if virtual) between company headquarters and service location centers is a small but important priority that can help bolster all employees’ understanding of the business and encourage work toward a given goal.

Bigger Doesn’t Always Mean Better

None of these examples are “rocket science.” But if these tips are so simple, why aren’t more companies taking advantage of them? I asked Rubin why doing what seemed like common sense was so uncommon. 

His answer: None of this is that difficult, but it requires management discipline and attention, consistently applied. 

Leaders, he commented, were more interested in the “big ideas” that could presumably make quick changes than in the small but important details that actually profoundly affected organizational performance.

So the next time you are intrigued by the promise of some magic solution, try to remember that the biggest and most economically significant changes often come from the simplest, but most important, actions.

To learn more about how your mindset can help create balanced, productive, and innovative changes at your organization, download our ebook, “Becoming Mindfit.

Dave Mortell's picture

What Performance Management Trends are You Noticing in the New Normal?

The prevalence of remote work in 2021 and beyond requires leaders to adapt how they work with their people. The question, of course, is how you can make that happen? 

Let’s explore some of today’s biggest challenges and discuss how they’re impacting performance management and HR. 

The New Remote Landscape 

Though telework has been around for years, it was generally limited to short periods and a limited number of remote employees. However, spring and summer of 2020 presented a complete shift in how we work—company offices became vacant, travel was halted and many workers transitioned to working remotely on a full-time basis.  

This new remote culture has changed how employees interact with colleagues and managers. Water cooler talk is no longer a thing. It’s a lot harder for managers to track sentiment and behavior when communications are email-only. Annual reviews are a lot more challenging, too, because you haven’t seen an employee in months. 

Naturally, fully remote work has presented a different look at performance management. With less direct communication and conversation between co-workers, superiors, and direct reports, it’s a lot harder to track some of a performance review’s underlying components. Pair this with the ongoing dissatisfaction with traditional performance management and companies are facing an inflection point.  

The Biggest Challenges of Remote Work 

For many organizations, the traditional performance management approach was convenient—with an appraisal of each employee once or twice a year. As a manager, you document what you would like to change or improve, use this information to create an annual review rating, and designate a day to speak with the reviewee. Then you use all of that information to determine compensation, employment status, development plans, and organizational talent analyses.  

It’s convenient, it’s cost-effective, and it’s heavily embedded into your company. It helps you establish company goals, standardize expectations and identify room for improvement.  

The traditional performance management process is also found to be demotivating by management and employees and is considered ineffective by HR managers. It ignores what’s on the horizon and focuses on backward-looking performance, making it challenging to build a holistic and accurate review. This ultimately creates a stressful environment for all those involved. 

Criticism of annual performance reviews is not a new phenomenon—it’s taken a new normal to bring this methodology’s weaknesses into the spotlight. With fewer in-person interactions, it’s a lot harder to track engagement, solicit feedback or understand whether your people are aligned.  

The Rise of Ongoing and Informal Reviews 

To address this, many companies have decided to look beyond the traditional (and highly criticized) annual review. Instead, organizations are using the current landscape to increase the frequency of reviews to stay connected with employees. 

Ongoing, informal reviews are becoming more popular as part of a larger continuous engagement initiative. Not only do they provide recognition at a time when employees are worried about the future but also they rely on up-to-date and future-looking information. At a time when HR managers are making tough decisions and management teams are seeking increased productivity, shorter review timeframes can provide companies with a clearer picture of their business. 

How Companies Benefit from Check-ins and Continuous Feedback 

Though there are many reasons to embrace the quarterly review model or replace formal reviews with more frequent check-ins or 1:1 performance meetings, the following reasons stand out:

  • Reduce Employee Angst – Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “scared chickens don’t lay eggs.” As employees read about recessions, businesses being shut down and more, they need you to lead. Your team wants to know things are moving smoothly and that the business is going to be around. 

  • Provide Recognition69 percent of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized. Recognition is the number one way to inspire great work. How long does this feeling of recognition last? Not long—certainly not a whole year. A shift from annual reviews to more frequent ones can deliver this recognition and increase engagement. 

  • Increase Accountability – It’s a lot harder to keep track of your employees when they’re not around the office. Accountability and engagement are intertwined here. But it’s a lot easier for a disengaged employee to deliver just enough when there are limited person-to-person discussions. This is doubly so when said employee knows that they won’t have to answer this until review season. With shorter timeframes and less formality, you can develop a clearer picture of accountability and engagement. 

New Tools Deliver Efficiency, Transparency, and Accuracy 

For better or worse, the early stages of the pandemic changed the way employees worked and communicated. Although you may have read about or even experienced “Zoom burnout,” many have found that the new communications tools used to manage the move to work from home provided a wide range of benefits: 

  • More Efficient and Effective Communications – Rather than taking time out of your day to meet or discuss projects, a well-built message board or corporate social media platform allows employees to communicate more quickly and effectively.  

  • More Transparent Communications – The home is now the office. The virtual water cooler conversation leaves room for more discussion areas and at least one friendship has formed over mutual interests discovered by a Zoom background. Simply put, it’s easier to broaden the conversation and understand how employees are doing because you’re both in a more personal setting.

  • More Informed Employees – The implementation of new communications tools has presented companies with another benefit—it’s easier to share information. Now, rather than a disconnected process of pushing down information, internal communications have become timelier and more transparent.  

Though 2020 has introduced you to new platforms, companies have provided more communication channels to employees for years. The only difference is that instead of simply looking at or using the tools, your employees rely on them. As these platforms become more deeply embedded, this new normal will provide your staff with more fluid and accurate communications. 

Rising Focus on Engagement Provides Outstanding Results 

2020 has presented a lot of unprecedented challenges for companies and their employees, and it might have been the shock to the system that leaders needed. With new tools in place and a new focus on connection with employees, many businesses have found opportunities for improvement that were previously overlooked.  

From communications to performance management, HR is creating new programs built to facilitate conversations, encourage connection, and build engagement—often seeing outstanding results. According to Best Place to Work data meta-analysis, 2020 has seen employee engagement skyrocket, up 11 percent over the high water mark set in 2019.   

In fact, the survey from Josh Bersin notes that 83 percent of employees feel better supported by management, 77 percent feel their organization is providing up-to-date and transparent communications and has found that engagement programs are working.  

More Work to Do: Engagement Programs Need Continued Improvement 

There’s still a lot of work on the horizon.  Getting from adjusting to the new normal to advancing your business into it will require a mentality that shifts and accommodates change. Now is the time to focus on engagement program results and implement new methods focused on morale.  

The Role of Continuous Feedback in Performance Management, Employee Engagement, and Morale 

With communication taking place more efficiently, information being shared more transparently and check-ins becoming more frequent, a focus on continuous engagement can deliver results. Feedback and recognition connect employees and managers, establishes a common goal and connects processes, helping your organization: 

  • Solidify and reinforce connections between managers and employees. When feedback and recognition are provided by indirect managers or across departments, previously unknown insights emerge, helping your employees feel valued and motivated (especially if they are working between different departments or clinical facilities). 

  • Take noticeable steps toward a workplace culture where others are not only recognized but heard. 

  • Increase engagement with the talent platform(s) you’re already invested in. 

  • Gauge how your employees are doing by implementing employee pulse surveys. These surveys can help employees share where they are professionally and personally. The companies can also use them to find ways to recognize employee dedication and hard work when the lines are blurred between work and home.   

Cornerstone and Educe: Learning, Thriving and Performing  

Performance Management has always been a challenge. But with recent events, many have risen to this challenge.  

Much like the transition to work in the new normal, the operating landscape will require the right tools, tactics and processes to get where you want to be. If you’re looking to put your business in a position for long-term success, Cornerstone and the Educe Group can help. By relying on a leading service provider to implement one of the world’s most powerful talent management platforms, you can empower your users and make the most of your Cornerstone investment

As a Cornerstone partner for over five years, Educe helps organizations at every level better understand and fully leverage Cornerstone’s powerful talent management capabilities. 

To keep learning more about emerging performance management trends, watch this video of Stacie Grasberger, associate at The Educe Group, and Hendrik Thomas, senior product manager at Cornerstone, discussing what you can do to be prepared for these trends and how to handle their challenges.

Contact us to learn more about how Educe can help you make the most of your Cornerstone investment.