The HCG team shares their analysis, opinions, and observations on talent management. Visit us often for a different point of view on HR, talent, and the practices of managing the human potential.
A Conversation with Dr. Jim Smither
Shreya Sarkar-Barney, Ph.D
Several organizations have done away with performance ratings, and others have made a steadfast commitment to this practice. For those reconsidering their approach – should one scrap performance ratings or work to improve the process? Perhaps the more important question is -are performance appraisals the real problem or is it something else? We spoke with Dr. Jim Smither, a well-known authority on Performance management. Dr. Smither's research has appeared in the top-tier peer-reviewed journals. He is also a highly regarded advisor and consultant to corporations and not-for-profit organizations. This blog post has the excerpts of our conversation with Dr. Smither on this controversial topic.
Shreya Sarkar-Barney, Ph.D.
Ten years in business is a long time. Only a third of small companies make it this far which makes me feel privileged and fortunate. While I am thankful, I continue to be restless because there is so much more that needs to be done to achieve our mission of spreading evidence-based practice in people management. Many have asked, why I feel so strongly about this cause. I certainly do, and every time our journey gets difficult I find myself becoming even more resolved to push harder.
In this blog, I take the opportunity to explain how I came to have this firm belief. Perhaps, you have had similar experiences and may become equally passionate about evidence-based practice.
Early experiences: I grew up in a small industrial town in southern India called Shahabad. My dad worked in a mid-management sales role for the only employer in town, ACC Babcook Limited (ABL), an engineering firm that manufactured machinery for cement plants. Although small, the city was unique in many ways. It was a planned community, pristinely clean with manicured gardens and streets canopied with laburnum trees. Most people believed it was a paradise and left only when it was time to retire. It was the only place I had lived since my birth. As a teenager, I nurtured dreams of going away to college but coming back in the summers to be with my family and friends. Sadly, things were not going so well for the company. Employees stopped receiving their salaries. I saw first-hand the impact of poor leadership, lack of accountability and the resulting impact on a small town. With no other options for making a living, people started committing suicide, theft, and crime increased. What was once a paradise was no longer so. While things were falling apart for the average employee, the leaders seemed to be doing fine, still taking foreign trips with their families, presumably on the company’s dime. It just did not seem fair. It was during this time that I learned about the field of Organizational Psychology. In a women’s magazine, I read how the Tata Group used practices such as testing to bring fairness in the hiring process. I learned that a US trained Organizational Psychologist was leading this work. At that moments it hit me that the world would be a better place if there were more fairness and people believed in doing the right thing. At that early age, I had discovered my professional interest.
Shreya Sarkar-Barney, Ph.D
An earlier version of this article appeared in People Matters (May 2017). https://www.peoplematters.in/article/technology/a-focus-on-measures-evidence-based-science-is-important-15543
In the future, we will see talent analytics efforts pivot in three important ways: (a) mature from lending administration support to augmenting performance, (b) transition from describing the past to providing future-focused insights, (c) evolve managerial decision making about people from intuition-led, to one that is more objective and fact-based.
According to a 2013 CEB survey, only 18% of business leaders say they trust their talent data. A staggering 82% don’t believe their talent analytics focus on the right issues, and only 15% of HR leaders say they have made a business decision based on insights gleaned from HR analytics. Not much has changed in 2018 according to a survey conducted by consulting firms, DDI, The Conference Board, and Ernst and Young. Yet, investment in talent analytics globally is upwards of 600 million dollars. How can organizations derive greater value from their people analytics practice?
In this article, I present the thesis that organizations that avoid some of the common pitfalls associated with talent analytics, adopt an evidence-based focus, and deliver personalized insights will be better positioned to fulfill the promise that the practice has to offer. If done right, it can offer a significant competitive advantage to organizations. Imagine a learning plan that is automatically created based on the future skill needs and aspirations of an employee. How about the intelligent identification of rotational opportunities to grow your future leaders. Imagine automatic rescheduling of tasks for optimal time utilization, and intelligent calendar management to promote work-life balance. The possibilities are tremendous, and the journey for most organizations has just begun.
Shreya Sarkar-Barney & Alyssa Perez
In the business world, talent management (TM) has been hailed as a pivotal practice that enables firms to compete, reduce costs, and boost performance and profits. It often is cited among the top 10 priorities of senior leaders and frequently features among the top concerns keeping the organization from achieving their goals (CEB, 2016). This is a curious situation considering growing investments to advance human capital. The persisting challenges indicate that talent management, as currently practiced, has done little to drive business outcomes, employee well-being, or meet organizational goals. This lack of success may in part be due to an inadequate understanding of what talent management is, how it can be best used, or what constitutes good practice.
Owing to its emergence in practice rather than science, talent management is often perceived as trendy or fad-based practice rather than rigorous decisions making methodology about talent. Considering the parallels in topical focus with research-based disciplines such as management, industrial-organizational psychology, and strategic human resource management, there is significant potential to advance the practice of talent management as a decision science. This blog reviews the current status of the practice, highlighting gaps and opportunities. Based on this analysis, we present a new definition of integrated talent management. By linking the framework to existing bodies of academic research, we hope that the practice will flourish alongside the advancements in the underlying fields.
Dr. Shreya Sarkar-Barney
Founder and CEO
Former Google employee, James Damore’s leaked memo has sparked a heated debate on the topic of diversity in the tech industry, particularly as it relates to women’s capacity for STEM careers. Many leaders are facing similar discussions in their own organizations and finding themselves untangling the various perspectives presented in the media. In this blog, my goal is to review the available scientific evidence on gender differences as it relates to STEM careers. Following this I will share recommendations for organizations looking to promote gender diversity.
There are three broad camps represented in this vigorous debate. The “biology” camp argues that men and women are biologically different with few social influences causing these variations. The “abilities” camp views women as lacking in abilities and interests that are required for careers in science and engineering. The “societal influence” camp argues that rather than abilities, it’s the societal conditions that thwart women's’ interests in STEM careers. Each of these perspectives have received research attention making it possible to evaluate the arguments more objectively.
First, here’s a brief overview of the key perspectives on the root causes for gender differences. For each I highlight where the science supports and refutes specific claims.
Evolutionary theory: Proponents of an evolutionary approach, suggest that selection leads to different adaptive behaviors in men and women. They argue that thousands of years of biological programming explain why women have greater responsibilities in child bearing and rearing. They suggest that men, on the other hand, evolved to ensure the physical survival of their mates and off-springs. As a result, their adaptive responses are geared toward survival and protection. Thus far, the science suggests only mixed support for this view.
Social-Cognitive learning theory: Originally proposed by Stanford's Albert Bandura, this theory suggests that adults and children learn acceptable behaviors through ongoing reinforcements and punishments, both directly and by observing others. As social beings, humans are programmed to imitate others, particularly those in power. By observing the action of powerful others, they learn to engage in socially desirable behaviors. This brings positive affirmation from others leading to increased confidence in oneself (self-efficacy). In the case of gender differences, there are culturally acceptable behaviors for males and females. These are learned early in life by observing others and regulating one's own behaviors to be more in line with acceptable norms. The science for Social-Cognitive theory is very strong, and supports the idea that traditional gender norms and social processes conspire to account for some of the gender disparity in traditionally male jobs.
Sociocultural theory: According to this theory psychological gender differences are the result of societal segregation of labor by gender. Historically, biological difference between men and women resulted in men doing work requiring strength and women being predominantly focused on home and family care . Studies on vocational interests show sizeable gender differences. Men tend to be more interested in things, and women more on people and relationships. These interests influence the career choices made by each gender. Men and women also pursue different career goals. Men favor opportunities that bring status, success and allow for competition. Women favor opportunities that require working with people, caring for others, and attending to other’s needs.
Expectancy-value theory. This theory explains a person’s decision to pursue a challenging task. According to the theory, people pursue tasks they expect to succeed in (expectancies) and are aligned with their interest and perceived utility in achieving their goals (value). This theory has received considerable empirical support in explaining gender differences in the pursuit of activities that may be outside of the community’s stereotype for gender roles.
While these major theories help us organize our thinking about gender differences, what does the science say about specific capabilities of each gender? Are they really substantially different, and if so are they the result of biological differences or influenced by socialization?
Ask someone to describe the characteristics of an effective business leader and you are likely to receive an answer that includes self-confidence, dominance, toughness, decisiveness, fearlessness, drive, and accomplishment. In fact, many executive recruiters look for these characteristics when selecting leaders for all levels of their organizations. But do these behaviors make for a more effective leader? Do these behaviors positively impact team performance? A study conducted this past year suggests that an unlikely leader behavior may yield better team and organizational outcomes: that behavior is humility.
Humility is a misunderstood trait often associated with weakness in the United States. Psychology, however, defines humility as an attribute that occurs in a social context, and it is characterized by a willingness to view one’s own strengths and weaknesses accurately and to judge others’ strengths and shortcomings accurately as well. Being humble also means being teachable and open to growth experiences.[i]
A leader who demonstrates humility will draw focus to others’ strengths, encourage others to share their perspectives, possess a willingness to acknowledge his/her own limitations, and support others’ growth and achievement. Furthermore, a humble leader will inspire follower loyalty and commitment,[ii] reinforce job satisfaction, work engagement, and employee retention,[iii] and counter the negative effects of leader narcissism, leading to more positive follower outcomes.[iv]
A non-humble or authoritarian leader, in contrast, will avoid all appearances of being weak. He/she will be over-confident and self-righteous, will not publicly acknowledge mistakes, and will seek personal status above the status of his/her team. These behaviors are contagious and will create teams of competitive individuals vying for individual status instead of focusing on achieving the goals of the team.[v] How does this leader behavior impact team performance?
Last year, a study examining the effects of leader humility on team performance was conducted by Bradley Owens and David Hekman.[vi] Using data from 607 subjects organized into 161 teams, this study induced humility in a laboratory setting, in a longitudinal lab study across six weeks, and in a field study completed in a health services context. Participants in all three studies completed tasks and then rated the humility of their leaders, their teams, or both. The results of this research showed that leaders’ humble behaviors were contagious and that leaders modeling humility inspired team members to be humble as well. In the end, the teams led by the humble leader performed better on all their respective tasks. It is tempting to view these results as representing a best-case scenario that can only exist in rare settings; but the results of each of the three studies augmented one another to demonstrate that these results are consistent across different types of settings and across different spans of time.
Companies are looking for ways of implementing popular technology to aid them in the employee selection process. One popular trend is to use social media sites (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) as a tool for attracting and researching potential candidates. A senior manager for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the United States reported that approximately 75% of recruiters across multiple industries are required by their firms to conduct online research of job candidates, and more than 70% of recruiters state that they have rejected candidates based on the material found on social media websites.[i] A study of 2,600 hiring managers conducted in the United States found that 45% of them searched social media sites for information on job applicants.[ii] Frequent updates to user privacy settings on social media platforms (especially on Facebook) have made gaining access to candidates’ personal information much easier for prospective employers. This ease of access and ubiquity of use on the part of recruiters makes an applicant’s ability to promote himself/herself well on social media “a new job hurdle.”[iii]
Malala Yousafsai recently received the Nobel Peace Prize at the young age of 19 year for standing up against the Taliban and promoting education of girls and children. What can we learn about corporate leadership from Malala's approach? In this blog post, HCG President and Founder, Dr. Shreya Sarkar-Barney shares a brief analysis.
This week we saw examples of great leadership recognized with well deserved awards. Malala Yousafsai, who was shot by the Taliban for promoting education for girls, has been outspoken about the right of women and young girls. Last week she received the Nobel Peace Prize at the young age of 19 year for standing up against the Taliban and promoting education of girls and children.
Despite continued threats to her life, she has eloquently shared the plight of the lesser sex in eminent forums like the UN. Her efforts have drawn world-wide attention and support. For someone who grew up in a remote region of Muslim fundamentalist controlled Pakistan, it is remarkable to see such unusual display of courage, fortitude and leadership. What about Malala and her situation enable her to display such extraordinary leadership? Are there lessons for employees in organizations?
Here's three lessons on leadership from Malala:
For job prospects, social media sites such as Glassdoor and CareerBliss have become go to places for company reviews. How much should you trust the company ratings on these sites? Our analysis shows not much. In this blog, HCG research consultant, Izabela Widlak, reveals what she uncovered.
In the case of concerning reviews about your organization or its practices, investigate the reported problem and its root causes. While few negative comments in the midst of positive reviews aren’t likely to do much harm, many negative comments may indicate that there is a greater problem that has to be repaired. For example, repeating comments about lack of opportunities for development may indicate that a company should invest more in training, on-the-job developmental opportunities or mentoring and coaching. While negative reviews indicate there may be a problem, they are unsubstantiated claims and do not necessarily provide a indication of how widespread the problem is likely to be. Have a qualified talent management practitioner conduct a full blown assessment. Analyses of this type are especially worthwhile when the organization has challenges with hiring or retaining high performing employees. When claims are carefully investigated and addressed, it becomes the best measure to prevent negative feedback in the future, as well as increase organizational effectiveness. One option is to openly share on the company's career site how the company is addressing concerns highlighted by ex-employees. More often than note candidates will appreciate the transparency believe the company is trustworthy.
In the quest to learn from bad reviews, don’t forget to learn from the positive ones. Affirmative or unexpected positive reviews can be flattering, but more importantly, they may allow the organization to learn about its strengths and about the aspects of employment brand that has been valued by employees. Again, communicate this on your careers site.