History and Value of Analytics (Measurement)

Figure 1: Analytics Value Contribution
Figure 1: Analytics Value Contribution

Most of us have lived through more than a few fades in our personal as well as professional lives. There seems to be a new “hot” idea or method for leading, managing, or improving every year and they just keep coming. One might argue that new approaches have become a market unto themselves instead of real tool for productive change. Moreover, we live in a time when knowing and using the latest and greatest is a sign of prestige than effectiveness. Although HR analytics might appear to be a fade on the surface, it creates too much value for organizational and human capital management to be the “next big thing.”
This post and others that follow will explore the value of analytics by examining each of the evolutionary steps it has followed. Like most methods of analysis, the value of the actual knowledge gained increases as tool sophistication grows. Figure 1 captures the increasing sophistication and value of analytics as you view from left to right. Measures give us the basis for comparing to standards or benchmarks and provide the first level of value due to our ability to compare our experience to others. Multiple measures drawn from inputs, processes, outcomes grant us the ability to compare movement and relationships. The use of dashboards assists in this effort and provides an easily accessible visualization method as we increase our analytical sophistication. Measuring leads to associating. Once we know what goes together, we can better measure how the movement in one factor relates to the movement in another. These patterns assist with determining causation or factors that serve as prerequisites to change. From causation, we enhance our ability for prediction and take more control of our future.

Measurement

The current analytics revolution started with establishing the value of measurement through data collection. Once measurement gained the recognition as a necessary element of effective human resource management practice, descriptive methods came more into use. HR functions initiated more surveys, collected data on core processes, and sought to develop metrics to measure outcomes. In 1984, Jac Fitz-enz published How to Measure Human Resources Management and changed the way we looked at human resource outcomes and transitioned data from “nice to have” to “need to know” in most large organizational human resource functions. His work profoundly influenced our understanding of not just the importance of human capital, but also how it could be measured like other operational areas and the value the function provides. In his second edition in 1995, Fitz-enz identified the most critical measures for assessing effectiveness as:

Revenue per Employee
Expense per Employee
Compensation as a Percentage of Revenue
Compensation as a Percentage of Expense
Benefit Cost as a Percentage of Revenue
Benefit Cost as a Percentage of Expense
Benefit Cost as a Percentage of Compensation
Retiree Benefit Cost per Retiree
Retiree Benefit Cost as a Percentage of Expense
Hires as a Percentage of Total Employees
Cost of Hire
Time to Fill Jobs
Time to Start Jobs
HR Department Expense as a Percentage of Company Expense
HR Headcount Ratio—HR Employees: Company Employees
HR Department Expense per Company Employee
Supervisory Compensation Percentage
Workers’ Compensation Cost as a Percentage of Expense
Workers’ Compensation Cost per Employee
Workers’ Compensation Cost per Claim
Absence Rate
Involuntary Separation
Voluntary Separation
Voluntary Separation by Length of Service
Ratio of Offers Made to Acceptances

SHRM provides a nice webpage with many of these metrics as well as the method of calculation (http://www.shrm.org/templatestools/samples/metrics/pages/default.aspx).

The real value of measurement is summarized well by Jac Fitz-enz from A New Vision for Human Resources: “To move to the center of the organization, HR must be able to talk in quantitative, objective terms. Organizations are managed by data. Unquestionably, at times, managers make decisions based on emotions as fact. Nevertheless, day-to-day operations are discussed, planned and evaluated in hard data terms.”

HR Analytics: 101

webanalyticsRecently, a few readers have sent questions regarding HR analytics. Like any paradigm shift, the level of understanding, commitment, as well as utilization of these new techniques and tools varies by leader, team, and organization. For those of us that have already “bought into” the idea of using data to model human behavior, the move to analytics makes perfect sense since it offers the next level of explanatory and predictive precision. For those of us that opted to “wait and see,” the time to act appears to be upon us. As markets become more competitive as well as complex, business intelligence not only provides for competitive differentiation, but also significantly increases the success rate of growth strategies. The convergence of affordable technical resources, more accessibility to proven approaches of analysis, and greater understanding of behavior now allow organizations to employ predictive as well as prescriptive tools.

What does this mean for those of us not using analytics already? We are about to join the party. Just as measurement expanded into almost every occupation and industry over the last few decades, analytics continues to expand in a similar fashion. While in most cases, it started as a project or small program in one area of most organizations, it now possesses its own standing. Most innovative organizations have analytics teams or even functions. The next step will be the expansion of analytics into most functions and areas as a regular tool. An interesting article on the continued diffusion and the associated challenges for change management appeared in Computerworld.com earlier this month (http://www.computerworld.com/article/2837078/analytics-for-the-rest-of-us.html). Given the importance and growing utilization of analytics, we will spend a few posts discussing what is going on with HR analytics and how they might be useful to you.

As a first step, how do you define analytics? Like many innovations, the strength of the proliferation of the term matches its ambiguity and lack of definitional consistency. Put simply, analytics encompass a set of tools, practices, and technologies utilized to analyze data on customers, employees, or other groups in order to enhance strategic decision-making for improved performance. With the increased availability and accessibility of data, analytics arose as a method of extracting meaningful insight and actionable intelligence in a real-time fashion from this new resource. As a result, the utilization of analytics not only changes the tools we use and the insight that we have, it has changed the way we think about our internal operations and the external environment.

Based on our understanding of analytics, what is the definition of HR analytics? HR analytics encompass a set of tools, practices, and technologies utilized to analyze data on employees or workers in order to enhance strategic decision-making for improved human capital performance. HR analytics focuses us on the human capital element of the organization as well as related processes, behaviors, and outcomes within the organization as a whole. The most valuable contributions of HR analytics allow us to understand how people produce tangible results as well as the factors that lead to positive change in the future. As a result, HR analytics combine the following key elements:

• Methodology for posing human capital-related questions and seeking valid answers;
• Approach for linking data for various sources inside and outside of the organization (metrics, surveys, outcome data);
• Set of statistical techniques for identifying relationships, causation, and potential actions; and
• Standards for quantifying the return on investment in human capital.

Our next post will delve more into the value of analytics and how we arrived at our current state.

Technology and HR:Obserations from HR Tech 2014

HRTechToday, technology shapes every aspect of how we live and work. It affects how we communicate, manage travel, obtain information, interact socially, and coordinate our activities. The digital revolution has reached a point of not only influencing us, but also assisting in defining who we are. The Daily Mail recently reported that the average person looks at their smart phone 110 times a day and up to every six seconds in the evening. Clearly, technology is transforming from being a tool to assist us with life to taking on a more preeminent role in our lives.

Last week, I attended the 2014 HR Tech Conference and had a chance to look and try out a fair number of new tools for automating human resources. Like most big shows in Las Vegas, it contained a full serving of glitz, glamor, and gadgets. You know HR technology has “come into its own” when some of the vendor booths are bigger than my first house and the whole event almost sold out three strip hotels.

As I interacted with various HR professionals, several key observations kept coming up:

HR still covets a “seat at the table”

More than a few presenters mentioned that even with all of the effort and success at adding value in their organizations, HR continues to struggle with “re-branding” or redefining itself as more than a record-keeping and compliance component of the organization. During one session, a presenter asked how many feel that they are a strategic partner in their organization and about 25 percent raised their hand. After more than a decade and a dramatic professionalization of the field, the “people business” still lacks the prestige of other areas in most organizations, namely finance. Among those suffering less from the stigma of the past, a common theme across those successful few related to providing actionable data on a regular basis that decreased costs and improved financial performance. Put simply, organizations that valued HR more received contributions beyond the “typical” HR offerings that affected the financial success of the organization. In other words, it was not enough to provide something new beyond past HR offerings, but the something new had to contribute a clearly quantifiable gain.

Predictive analytics remains more concept than reality for most

Analytics and big data hold a position of preeminence in our field, but most organizations still lack the resources and capability to realize all of the value of this paradigm shift. Most of us have been tracking and analyzing HR metrics for years and have realized efficiency and effectiveness gains in a variety of process areas. However, few have transitioned to identifying more causal relationships or actionable and predictive outcomes. Although monitoring provides a strong basis for developing a plan for action, causality illustrates the most optimal methods of change. With the cost and user complexity of new tools decreasing, more organizations will be able to incorporate higher-level analytics into their business strategy in the near future.

Modeling of human behavior continues to advance

Modeling human behavior and linking the core elements to the associated outcomes stands out as one of the next frontiers of the dig data revolution. While tools for predicting an applicant’s potential success through their skill and personality alignment was innovative a few years ago, new tools allow HR professionals to assess and act on numerous indicators of alignment, performance, and interaction. Furthermore, greater availability of data, increasingly sophisticated algorithms, and affordable analysis tools will only enhance our ability to predict future behavior and outcomes. An interesting example from a presenter pertained to new models that can predict with incredible accuracy how learners will score on a test, thus negating the need for testing when assessing competence. We are only at the beginning of not only better understanding how we work, but also how to maximize who we can be.

I think we can all agree: it is a very exciting time to be in the “people business.”

Who Wants to be a Dictator?

Figure 1: Impact of Dictatorial Leader on Employees
Figure 1: Impact of Dictatorial Leader on Employees

Most of us at some point in our lives have contemplated what it would be like to be dictator for a day. Imagine that your thoughts, ideas, and needs come first and those around you exist primarily to enable you to do what you want, when you want, and how you want. We live in an age where being called a dictator is less than complementary, but behaving like one remains acceptable. In other words, most prefer not to be equated to a “little” Stalin, Hitler, or Kim Jong-Il, but still seek power and preeminence with little concern for the practices most effective in delivering the desired result.

When a leader mirrors the traits of a dictator, the results not only hurt the organization, but its members as well. One of the first major studies of leadership type or style occurred in 1939. Kurt Lewin studied schoolchildren by assigning them to one of three groups with an authoritarian, democratic, or laissez-fair leader. Researchers observed how the children responded to their leader during an arts and craft project and documented the differences in response associated with each leadership style. As one would expect, considerable differs appeared between the groups.

The authoritarian or dictatorial leader tends to make all of the decisions and punishes those that disagree. The dictator justifies his or her actions though a combination of a decent dose of narcissism coupled with some level of subscription to McGregor’s Theory X of employees which perceives employees as lazy and work adverse. Assuming that Theory X represents the typical employee, then an effective leader needs to provide close supervision and control to ensure operational success.

As a result, the typical dictator in the workplace:

Assumes that the company exists for them – A dictatorial leader equates everything back to them. Any decision, success, or need somehow relates to their needs, ideas, or actions. Their inflated view of themselves leaves no room for recognizing the contribution of others sets up a mindset amenable to control and infallibility.

Equates respect with fear – Different leaders garner respect in different manners and with varying levels of success. The dictatorial leader typically relies on fear to motivate compliance as well as productivity. The leader creates an aura of being tough, resilient, and uncompromising. Periodically, the leader bullies or punishes someone to create an example of action to reinforce his or her words. Put simply, they assume that a fearful employee is a productive employee and fear serves as the best motivator.

Controls above all else – A dictatorial leader assumes that employees are incapable of doing anything correctly in the absence of their insight and guidance. They are the consummate micro-managers and feel they are at their best when they are ensuring that everyone is where they should be and doing what they should be doing. The dictatorial leader must know everything that everyone is doing and provide guidance to each step of any process.

Possesses infallibility – A dictatorial leader fails to perceive that they can ever be wrong. All decisions, actions, and interactions appear perfect to the dictator when completed by the dictator. As a result, this type of leader has little need for the input or opinions of others. When they do solicit input, it is little more than a ruse.

What effect does this type of leader have on the workforce? Considerable research points to negative personal and professional cost of dealing with a dictatorial leader. Most would agree that it is not easy to be productive or happy in a fearful, tense, and stressed environment on a constant basis for any length of time.

A recent survey by HCS solicited 500 employees across different industries working for someone they identified as an authoritarian or dictatorial leader and asked them to identify the three most common effects it has on them. A lack of engagement occurred most often. Approximately 78 percent of respondents categorize themselves as disengaged due to their current leader’s style. Similarly, 64 percent rated their stress as high on a consistent basis in the workplace and away. The final three most occurring repercussions pertained to a low level of trust, feelings of resentment, and concerns with favoritism accounting for 54, 49, and 39 percent, respectively.

If your organization harbors a few dictatorial leaders, you should ask yourself if the cost to your organization and employees equals the value of their contribution.

The Drama of Teams

teamworkWithin organizations, teams provide one of the most complicated, but necessary elements for success. Modern organizational practice incorporates teams at all levels and functions and relies on teams to bring together knowledge, experience, and innovation in an efficient and effective manner. Building and managing teams not only occupy a preeminent position in the hierarchy of manager competencies, but also contribute to the competitive advantage between organizations. Given the level of importance, why do we find that strong teams seem to be so elusive?

Teamwork is Hard

A 2013 University of Phoenix/Harris Interactive survey of 1,072 employed adults in the US indicates that 84 percent of respondents characterize working as a team as difficult. The primary sources of the difficulty relate to self-interest, increased workloads, reliance on technology, and a lack of training in leading as well as serving as an effective team member. Approximately, 45 percent of respondents feel that team members only look out for themselves, 40 percent sited less time to work on teams, 35 percent noted the shift to electronic interaction, and more than 60 percent pointed to a lack of training influencing team success. When asked specifically about why teams fail, a lack of training ranks the highest. Approximately 61 percent of respondents selected a lack of training as a primary factor. Similarly, 59 percent of respondents think that individual motivations significantly influence team success.

Missing the Behaviors

A recent survey by HCS posed a slightly different set of questions to a similar sample and found that knowledge and practice of acceptable team behaviors ties in closely to the issues related to training and self-interest. In other words, team members desire more training because the only behaviors they have confidence in are those individual-focused behaviors that have proven successful over time. For example, if an employee hordes resources in order to produce higher levels of output, then the means is justified by the ends. When an opportunity to share resources occurs, a “successful strategy” has to be altered. The 1,200 respondents identify understanding how to work together and create an equal or better result as a primary need (63 percent). A strong, second concern pertains to how best to work with others as equals (58 percent). The third most cited concern relates to how to manage in a shared resource environment (43 percent).

Lack of Consistent Results

Richard Hackman, the Edgar Pierce Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University and a leading expert on teams captures well the idea that teams may not be as magical as one might assume. Research finds that teams under perform, regardless of practices and resources allocated. The root of the failure arises from the tradeoff between issues with coordination and motivation vis-à-vis collaboration. Put simply, the cost of collaboration may be much greater than we realize. This cost may reduce the net gain to the point that forming a team no longer affords a viable option. Moreover, even a strong team eventually competes with other teams, thus reducing overall effectiveness.

Given these concerns, how can we improve the value and effectiveness of our teams?

We have to make sure that a team approach is the correct approach.
We have to incentivize the behaviors we want.
We have to train by giving knowledge as well as teaching behaviors.
Our leaders must model the desired behaviors.

The Marriage of Technology and Learning

elearningAs human resource and development experts, we recognize the value of technology in meeting our workforce needs. As a tool, it enhances the flexibility, interactivity, customization, and accessibility to key information and content. It grants us data necessary to assess our success and enhance our value proposition. Moreover, technology grants us the ability to move from being a transactional to a strategic resource by allowing us to redeploy our expertise and resources.
Without a doubt, organizational learning programs continue to gain in efficiency and effectiveness as traditional processes evolve into more automated ones. Not only has learning technology enabled us to reach employees in a more convenient and cost effective manner, but also technology permits us to customize content to meet the needs of individual learners. In our current environment of increasing competition, successful organizations must possess the ability to deploy critical knowledge to employees on a short time frame in different sites and on different schedules while managing costs.

Recent research indicates that e-learning will shortly surpass instructor-led training as the most often utilized method of employee education (Chief Learning Officer, Learning Technology Report 2014). While most organizations still offer instructor-led training, the majority continue to grow their e-learning offerings each year. In addition, among the more than 75 percent of organizations that currently utilize e-learning tools, almost a third of organizations plan to invest in new learning systems in the coming year (docebo.com).

Clearly, the marriage of technology and learning continues to flourish.

For those of us involved in insuring the success of learners, what do we need to know about the trends in technology-enabled learning?

Cost Savings: Cost savings remain the primary business driver for change from instructor-based to e-learning. Estimates place delivering the content (instructor time, travel, materials) at 85 percent of every dollar spent on classroom training. Average cost savings by transition to e-learning ranges between 50 and 70 percent (IBM). Similarly, HCS estimates that e-learning reduces instruction time by as much as 60 percent, thus reducing the participant opportunity cost. E-learning provide courses in shorter sessions and across different days reducing the need for an employee to miss an entire day or work and remain in the office.

Impact on Productivity: IBM estimates that organizations that utilize e-learning tools and strategies have the potential to boost productivity by up to 50%. In other words, for every dollar that a company spends on e-learning, productivity increases by up to $30.

Competitive Advantage: According to 2011 Towards Maturity Benchmark Survey, 72 percent of the 600 companies surveyed indicated that e-learning and mobile learning helped their business adapt more quickly to change and be more competitive. Another way that e-learning helps improve the competitive advantage of an organization is by retaining its key team members. According to the National Research Business Institute, 23 percent of employees leave for lack of development opportunities and training. In those organizations adopting an e-learning approach, satisfaction with access to training goes up by more than 25 percent (HCS, 2013).

Convergence of Access and Mobility: Mobile learning offerings appear in the arsenals of more than 25 percent of organizations (Learning Technology Report, 2014). This trend coincides with the reduction of desktop-based computing and more mobility. According to IDC, the number of PCs will fall from 28.7 percent of the device market in 2013 to 13 percent in 2017. Tablets will increase from 11.8 percent in 2013 to 16.5 percent by 2017, and smartphones will increase from 59.5 percent to 70.5 percent. The next step in the migration of delivery will be to individual devices.

Competence, Perceptions, and Results

Figure 1: Comparison of Actual and Perceived Competence in Three Small Firms
Figure 1: Comparison of Actual and Perceived Competence in Three Small Firms

Most of us would agree that competence plays a critical role in performance and job success. If an employee fails to possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to perform their job, high levels of performance remains out of reach. Over the last several decades, many organizations have adopted more progressive and accurate means of identifying, measuring, and developing competencies, while implementing automated methods of managing human resources. This combination of readily available as well as actionable information has significantly altered how we hire, review, develop, reward, and promote employees. Moreover, by increasing our insight, it has transformed the way we think about performance and growth.

Recently, I reviewed a small collection of organizations that center their human resource management on competencies. Approximately ten years ago, each one transitioned from a more traditional, task-based approach to using competencies as the basis of managing performance and development. As part of working with them, a common concern arose related to the gap between employee perceptions of themselves and the perceptions of those around them, especially supervisors and peers. Specifically, each organization worried that self-evaluators tend to over-rate themselves and failed to seek necessary growth opportunities within their system. Put simply, even in an environment with insightful tools and numerous opportunities for growth, the low performers persisted in their assumption that they possessed the necessary competency levels.

The prevalence of this type of human behavior has resulted in extensive research and even a name for the phenomenon: the Dunning–Kruger effect (Kruger, Justin; Dunning, David (1999). “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77 (6): 1121–34.). Utilizing data from students, the study demonstrated that lower performing students grossly overestimated their own performance, while excellent students somewhat underestimated theirs. Dunning and Krueger concluded that the effect occurs when a cognitive bias manifests in unskilled individuals suffering from illusory superiority by rating their ability much higher than reality. The bias stems from an inability to recognize our own ineptitude. Dunning and Kruger surmised that incompetent people fail to recognize their own incompetence due to: tending to overestimate their own level of skill; failing to recognize genuine skill in others; and failing to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.

Similarly, the effect influences the skilled or competent by blinding them to the relative ability of others. Competent people tend to underestimate their relative competence by assuming that things easy for them must be easy for others.

Although research since 1999 offers mixed results, strong support exists for the supposition that most of us lack the capacity to assess our own competence and the probability of a poor estimate increases as our competence diminishes. In keeping with this concern, our clients asked us to assess the gap between self and group perception in their organizations. The combined results appear in Figure 1. The vertical axis captures the actual value of the competence based on peer and supervisor assessment, while the horizontal axis represents the difference between actual and perceived. As competence increases (moving from bottom to top of the graph), the difference decreases indicating that the more competent the employee, the more realistic the perception. Conversely, almost all those scoring in the lower third of competence over-estimate their abilities.  Although based on a small sample, the results mirror the findings of Dunning and Krueger.

What simple things can we conclude from these results that might help us on a day-to-day basis?
• Those that need development the most may not realize they need it.
• Managing performance is as much about educating as enabling.
• All capability levels of employees benefit from learning self-analysis.

Going Together: Engagement and Performance

performanceMost accept that engagement provides a critical precursor to optimal productivity and performance in any organization. Today, most organizations not only monitor engagement, but also evaluate managers on the engagement of their workforce along with other performance-based outcomes. Yet, we all know that keeping employees engaged takes a considerable amount of time and effort on the part of managers and leaders. As leaders work through the practicality of ensuring high levels of engagement, a common concern arises related to how to balance engagement and discipline. Assuming that employees who possess higher levels of engagement do a better job completing their tasks, are less likely to make mistakes, and are more motivated to perform, what happens when the performance still falls short? Or, what happens to engagement when you need to discipline?
A 2013 study by Leadership IQ joined group performance and engagement data to assess the viability of the linkage. After examining the results for 207 companies, a startling result surfaced: in 42% of the companies, the most engaged employees produced the least. Similarly, in those same companies, the least engaged were providing the majority of the productivity. A closer examination revealed that the most common reason for disengagement among those performing well pertained to the absence of accountability in the form of communicating clear performance expectations, recognizing contribution, and addressing poor performance. Disengagement among high performers occurred from a lack of actual management, which created a dysfunctional environment. Those still performing simply ignored the dysfunction while those engaged, but not performing failed to understand their own shortcomings. It makes more sense when you think of those organizations where a small cadre of high performers complains that the rest of the employees do not even realize they are failing to perform.

So, how would these results assist us in answering our question of the interaction between engagement and discipline? In macro sense, discipline is key to ensuring higher levels of engagement if it is part of the overall effort to support accountability through communicating performance expectations and results. An organization that does not address performance shortcomings will erode overall engagement, especially among those performing. Although this makes sense at the macro level, when confronting an individual, the linkage works differently depending on the nature of the feedback. Except when with the most mature recipients and the best communicators, negative feedback creates distance between the employee and the supervisor or even the organization. This distance erodes engagement as the level of trust and affinity for the supervisor decreases.
Consequently, for engagement to remain at similar levels, other factors with greater weight in the calculus of engagement should be emphasized, concurrently. Research shows that two elements influence the level of engagement more than communication on performance: communication on strategy and direction as well as understanding of business goals for the team and organization. In the most simple sense, a supervisor might reinforce the importance of the person to the organization, reconnect the employee to the overall direction of the organization, and emphasize the critical nature of the associated tasks to reaching business objectives.

Our Connectivity or Our Work

Figure 1: Average Use of Time, 2014
Figure 1: Average Use of Time, 2014

By now, most of us have been behind someone texting and weaving as they drive or had dinner while looking at the top of the other person’s head while they text and eat. For all of the benefits of technology and connectivity, it possesses a more challenging side as well.
A recent article about service in a famous New Year City restaurant does a good job illustrating the impact of our connectivity or linkages. The management noticed that most social media sites rated the restaurant poorly on service and this was a change from previous ratings of the restaurant. Specifically, the sites mentioned that the service was slow and the wait for a table was too long. Since the management could not identify anything that had changed with the quality of employees or the primary processes, they hired a company analyze the wait staff. Like any good consultant, the outside firm started with recommending more training and increasing the quality of the workforce.
In order to demonstrate the “change” in the workforce and the quality of service, the outside firm requested that the management review the internal video feed from the past as well as what its system collected more recently. The hope was that by comparing the footage from two different periods specific factors influencing the timeliness of service could be identified.

After comparing a busy day in 2004 to one in 2014, the results were shocking. A review of 2004 revealed the following:

  • Customer comes into the restaurant.
  • Customer spend on average eight minutes looking at the menu.
  • Waiter shows up almost instantly and takes the order.
  • Typical appetizers arrive within six minutes.
  • Two (2) out of 45 entries are sent back.
  • Waiters are responsive to tables.
  • After the check is delivered, most leave within five minutes.
  • Average time in the restaurant: 1:05
  • Customer comes into the restaurant.
  • Eighteen (18) out of 45 customers asked to be seated somewhere different from initial seat.
  • Before opening the menu, most are on their phones taking pictures or other activities.
  • Seven (7) out of 45 had the waiter come over right away for an average of five minutes to show them their phone or help with the WIFI.
  • When menus are opened, most place their phone above the menu and continue to type or surf.
  • Waiter checks with the table multiple times.
  • Average time from taking final seat to placing an order: 21 minutes.
  • Typical appetizers are delivered in six minutes.
  • Twenty-six (26) out of 45 customers spend an average of three minutes taking pictures of their food.
  • Fourteen (14) out of 45 customers take pictures of each other eating the food for an average of four minutes.
  • Nine (9) out of 45 customers sent their food back to be reheated.
  • Twenty-seven (27) out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group picture and in 14 cases they request is for multiple photos for an average of five minutes.
  • Eating takes 20 minutes longer than ten years ago due to stopping to be on your phone and 15 minutes longer for the bill o be paid.
  • Average time in the restaurant: 1:55.

It was no wonder that people felt service changed, the behavior of the customer had changed during the last ten years and that change added 55 minutes to the cycle of “turning a table.” Moreover, if this restaurant mirrors most there is also an increased use of phones by the wait staff as well. How many times have you looked around for the person waiting on your table to see them in a doorway on their phone?

As leaders in our own organizations, we face a similar challenge. Technology and connectivity has changed the workplace in some fundamental ways and is only going to increase in the future. For illustration purposes, let’s compare the results from one workplace in 2004 and 2014. Drawing on a recent productivity study of an insurance company’s employees and supervisors, the analysis looked at what employees spent their time doing. In 2004, employees spent about 56 percent of their time working on duties and tasks assigned. The biggest non-productive competitor for time was socializing with coworkers followed by participating in personal calls. The results for 2014 appear in Figure 1. While personal time took up about 43 percent of utilized time in 2004, it now represented closer to 64 percent of available time in 2014. The use of personal cell phones reached almost 25 percent of an employee’s time. Although it was not in large blocks or continuous use, it was a short, steady part of the day for staff. When employees were asked about the time spent on their personal phones, the most common response was “I had no idea.”

What do these results tell us?

  • As employers, we need to make sure we have clear policies and expectations on time usage at work.
  • There are increasingly levels of blending between the professional and personal, not only after hours, but during hours.
  • As the world changes, we have to as well.

Future Leaders

futureEach year I have the privilege of attending a conference for future leaders that brings together young, “up and coming” employees from a variety of organizations. While they come to the meetings to increase their knowledge of different ideas and to build their professional networks, I find that I learn as much, if not more than they do. The interaction, conversation, and discussion not only demonstrate the brilliance of the next generation, but also illustrate their determination to have an impact in their organizations and the world.

A common topic at the most recent session pertained to the current wave of changing expectations. Quickly, the discussion ventured from expectations others place on us as employees to expectations we place on our leaders, society, institutions, co-workers, spouses, and children. As you might imagine, opinions on specific leaders varied, but a strong consensus developed around the idea that leaders possess a distribution similar to any other profession with the bulk falling in the proverbial, average category. What was a little more surprising was that most participants agreed that none of their examples of exceptional or “top” leaders possess the skills and abilities necessary to be as successful in the future.

So, what were the characteristics that the participants identified that they felt were critical for future leaders, but in short supply even among the best today?

Collaboration – Most agreed that leaders today fail to maximize collaboration within and across teams.
Continuous Learning – All agreed that the demand for increasing higher levels of productivity has resulted in cultures of working harder and not smarter by continual learning.
Technology Proficiency – Most noted that there is still a conceptual as well as practical technology proficiency gap at the highest levels of most organizations.
Talent Building – All expressed concerns that while the development of talent receives a lot of “lip service,” few leaders commit they time necessary to help others reach their full potential.
Cultural Understanding – Similar to talent building, most felt that diversity and cultural understanding appears in regular organizational communication and is espoused as a value, but it has not become integrated with behavior.
Social Conscious – A common concern related to the degree to which a social conscious impacted decision-making vis-à-vis a profit motive overriding all other considerations.
Change Acceptance – Most agreed that leaders today still fail to recognize that change is the new “normal” and we have to not only accept, but also learn to use it our advantage y building flexibility structures, rewarding adaptability, and embracing innovation.
Total Communicator – All participants cited communication skills with multiple levels as an issue.

As the discussion neared completion, most agreed that the final ingredient pertained to a real commitment to preparedness for the future.

As we consider their comments, we might all agree that being a leader may be the toughest job around.