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    Doc Rivers and Buying In to the System

    Even though the Miami LeBrons dropped a discouraging loss on the Boston Celtics last night in the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs, the Celtics run over the last several years, (including an NBA title in 2008), has been one of the most compelling stories in all of sports. An experienced, veteran team, led by three aging hall of fame caliber players, (Pierce, Garnett, Allen), and driven on the court by a mercurial and fabulously talented young point guard, Rajon Rondo, that together present a unique set of challenges in terms of management and coaching. How to keep star players who were always the leaders and best players on every team they'd ever played on happy in a system that, in order to achieve sustained success, often demands that individual egos be sublimated to the greater good. How to blend in new and talented players like Rondo, and lesser (but still important), additional players to fill needed roles on the squad.

    It is easy, and in fact every professional sports team and coach talks about the need for players in a team sport to be willing to sacrifice their individual goals at times for the benefit of the team's goals, but very often all the talk is well, just talk. For a myriad of reasons many players and teams never can reach that point where team goals are seen as more important that player's individual goals. Particularly on the professional level where each player might have one eye on his next contract, which very likely will be enhanced by his ability to post impressive individual scoring statistics, whether or not these statistics are achieved in the context of team play.

    The fact that everyone talks about 'team play' and 'team goals' and very few teams ever seem to manage to actually buy-in to the concept, makes this short video (embedded below, email and RSS subscribers will need to click through), from Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers worth  two-and-a-half-minutes of your time on Friday. Rivers lays out the three simple, yet hard to pull off things a leader needs to do to get the best performance out of a team.

    Short and sweet, but really a key point. Role players in the NBA, and perhaps even in your organization, don't necessarily see themselves as just role players. In order to get them, as well as the stars and former stars of team, to accept and truly buy-in to the overall team concept you really have to three things firmly in place.

    One - First, the team has to buy-in to the leader as someone they trust and believe can lead them

    Two - The team and each player has to buy-in to the actual business or team strategy and see it as a winning approach

    Three - They have to understand their individual role and beyond that, have to see how the effective or exceptional performance of their individual role is essential for team success.

    This last one seems to me the most important and often the most overlooked. We talk a lot in talent and performance management about things like goal alignment and line of sight and making sure employees and team members understand and buy-in to the organizational mission. And those things are certainly important and necessary. But that last bit that Rivers talks about in the video, that every player on the team needs to believe that their individual contribution is absolutely critical to the team's success, and that every contribution is essential in order to win, well it seems to me that part of the 'buy-in' formula often gets underplayed.

    There are lots of variables and components that have to be assembled in just the right way to have a winning basketball team as well as a effective and productive work team. In the clip above Doc Rivers lays out his take on what a leader needs to install in order to get everyone on the team bought in and he does it in under three minutes. Nicely done Doc.

    Now just take all the extra time on your hands and figure out how to keep LeBron from dropping 50 on you in Game 7.

    Have a Great Weekend!


    HR Happy Hour - Back Live Tonight!

    After a few weeks of R&R, (not really), the long-running HR Happy Hour internet radio show and podcast is back, with a live episode tonight at 8:00PM ET.

    Tonight's show, titled 'Go Mobile: Relo, Recruiting, Retention', will feature guests Trish McFarlane from the HR Ringleader, and Kris Dunn, from the HR Capitalist. Aside - maybe I need a new nickname for this blog.

    You can catch the show in a few ways - live at 8:00PM from the show page here, via the call-in listener line 646-378-1086, or via the widget player below:

    Listen to internet radio with Steve Boese on Blog Talk Radio


    You can also follow the backchannel conversations on Twitter, including some special questions and discussions from Trish, on the #HRHappyHour hashtag.

    On the show tonight we'll be talking about some of the most interesting current issues and trends in recruiting, closing the deal for top candidates, managing candidate expectations, getting new hires up to speed, and even figuring out how and perhaps more importantly why, to worry about retention of talent.Click for full size chart

    The genesis for this conversation, and the source of many of the data points we will be using in the discussion, is the Allied Workforce Mobility Survey, details of which can be found on the Allied HRIQ site here.

    Just one example of the fantastic data set that can be found over at the Alled HRIQ site is on the right, a look at how organizations rated themselves on the relative strengths and weaknesses of their recruiting initiatives. And there is plenty more interesting charts, result sets, and analysis about what is happening in recruiting, relocation, onboarding, and retention today.

    So I hope you can check out the Allied HRIQ site, and then tune into the HR Happy Hour show, back live tonight at 8:00 PM ET.

    It should be, as usual, a fun and interesting show!


    It's hard to rally around a metric

    About a thousand years ago I worked for a large, extremely well-known organization that for a myriad of reasons was going through some tough times. Sales were still good, but expenses were out of control, there were growing quality concerns with some of the most profitable products, and after decades of predictable and recognizable market conditions, changes in the regulatory environment had given rise to a new kind of competitor - smaller, faster, better able to adapt to a much more dynamic market than had previously existed.Got it?

    Like many large companies that were entrenched and in some ways held captive by their size, history, amount of process and technical debt, there did not seem to be easy solutions, (or at least obvious ones), that the organization could pursue, and more importantly get everyone in the vast value creation ecosystem behind and pulling in the same direction towards, in order to improve results, better position the company for a much different looking future, while continuing to support thousands of customers and employees. As a low-level functionary at the time, I certainly was not privy to all the strategic options our company leaders were discussing to attempt to right the ship, reverse course, clear the anchor, (insert your favorite nautical metaphor here), but I remember well one of the major initiatives that did break free from the board room and impact all of us in the organization.

    It was that from that point forward, everyone in the company was directed to be focused on a financial measurement called Economic Value Added, or EVA. EVA attempts to estimate a firm's profit, expressed as the value created in excess of the require return of the company investors. EVA is basically the profit earned by the firm less the cost of financing the firm's capital. Confused by what focusing on EVA might mean for the actual people in the organization? Perhaps a quick look at the EVA equation will clear things up:

    Ok got it now?

    I won't bother listing out what all the variables mean, (check Wikipedia if you are a glutton for punishment). The real point is not that folks in HR or in Talent management need to better understand the real economic drivers of the organization, and the real cause and effect cycles that keep the doors open, the payroll met, and the shareholders happy. There have been oceans of books, articles, blogs, presentations, etc. that all make that same (valid) point. There is general consensus that HR needs to understand the actual business. 

    But here, and as the little EVA story seems to illustrate, (at least to me), is that in this example HR (and management) needed to understand a lot more than the business metrics. They needed to understand how to connect these metrics, business drivers, and silly-looking equations with what actually would resonate with people, and help them to see the value of the strategy, and help motivate them towards execution of these plans. No one I worked with, for, or near could even really understand at a personal level what focusing on EVA meant to us, or at least was supposed to mean. 

    Was it cutting costs and expenses? Was it shaving a day or two off a process cycle time? Was it making sure we answered customer complaints in less than 24 hours? Because if those were the things we needed to think about, well, then just tell us that. We could have rallied around saving money, serving our customers better and faster, reducing the energy consumption in the building, or a million other things that were actually real and we could understand and impact.

    What we could not do was get excited about an equation, or rally around a flag bearing a formula.

    Even if it was the right formula.


    Recruiting Technology Innovation: Mystery Applicant

    A couple of weeks back I had the honor of serving as a member of the judging panel for the Recruiting Innovation Summit's first ever recruiting technology startup competition, held in conjunction with the Summit at the Computer History Museum Mountain View, California.

    There were six innovative and interesting solutions in the competition; Goood Job, a solution for empowering employee referral programs with social network connections; Lab of Apps, a mobile-only app for more efficient and effective mobile recruiting; ONGIG; a recruitment marketing solution that enables interactive and multi-media job advertising; trait perception; a platform for candidates and employers to solicit and receive thorough rankings of skills and virtues; Venturocket, a skills-based marketplace designed to match talent with opportunity; and finally the ultimate winner of the startup contest, Mystery Applicant, a solution to capture, measure, and report on candidate experience with the organization's application process, a topic that continues to grow in relevance and importance.

    Mystery Applicant, a startup from the UK impressed the judging panel and the audience at the Recruiting Innovation Summit with its simple to deploy, elegant, and powerful solution that cuts directly to a real business problem that many organizations are experiencing, namely, a poorly designed or inefficient application process and experience that is likely turning away as many good candidates as it captures.Mystery Applicant Recruiter Dashboard

    Mystery Applicant integrates with an organization's Applicant Tracking System, and knows when someone has applied. The candidate is then asked for their feedback about the recruiting and applications process. The organization can also request similar feedback at the end of the recruitment process.

    The system collates all of the responses and presents aggregated information to the recruiter via a dynamic and filterable dashboard. The organization can immediately see how they are performing across the entire organization, or if they prefer at a more granular level. Ideally, the organization can take this data, examine the candidate feedback and the trends over time, and make the needed adjustments to systems, processes, communications, recruiter strategy, and more in order to improve the overall candidate experience, and strengthen the organization's employment brand.

    If you are one of the many organization's interested in how your employment brand is perceived, and what candidates and applicants really think of your company, the process, and the interactions they have with your recruitment staff, then I do encourage you to give Mystery Applicant a look. They do represent a real innovation in the recruiting technology space, and even better, one that can have direct and immediate impact to help address a real business problem.

    Congratulations to Mystery Applicant's founders, Mike Cook and Nick Price, and the entire team. And thanks again to the Recruiting Innovation Summit for letting me participate in a fantastic event.


    Take the month off. Just report back with what you did

    In a new spin of Google's famous '20% time' or the now commonplace 'hackdays' in many technology companies that both, (in different ways), provide free and unstructured or loosely structured time for employees to devise, experiment, imagine, and build new things, the software company 37Signals announced via a blog post last week that it is giving most of its employees, in June, an entire 'hack month'. What's a 'hack month'? Details here:

    From the 37Signals blog post announcing the project:

    This June will be a full month of free time to think, explore, mock up, prototype, whatever. People can go solo or put together a team – it’s entirely up to them. This is a month to unwind and create without the external pressures of other ongoing projects or expectations. We’re effectively taking a month off from non-essential scheduled/assigned work to see what we can do with no schedule/assignments whatsoever.

    The culmination of this month of free work time is Pitchday – the first Thursday in July. That’s when everyone will get a chance to pitch their idea, mockup, prototype, or proof of concept to the whole company. The better the pitch, the more likely the project will happen.

    Some people have already paired up and recruited others to work on an idea together. Some are going solo. And some are taking the time to work on a combination of smaller things they’ve been meaning to work on for a while.

    I love the idea of companies letting go, even if it is for one day a quarter like many hack days, one day per week like the 20% time scheme, or even something more bold and potentially impactful as 37Signals' month-long experiment.  The key to these programs being more than just nice perks for an overworked and over stressed staff is the 'pitch' that happens at the end of the hack time. The pitch, since it typically has to be delivered in front of all their peers as well as company leadership places extra responsibility in the employee's and can serve to illustrate some really useful elements for company leadership in both staff skills and capabilities, as well as motivation and engagement.

    Some of the benefits for company leadership of these kind of hack day programs that are often harder to come by during the course of 'normal' business:

    Figure out who is all in - some people and teams will push really hard in these programs, will exert extra time and effort to make something great, to 'win', and to be recognized. Others, well, not so much. And the good thing is in the pitch meetings, all this plays out in public.

    Figure out the untapped or unrealized talents in the organization - the inherent freedom to choose your project allows staff to experiment with skills and technology that they might enjoy, or at least be very talented with, but for some reason the 'real job' does not utilize. You will almost always be surprised what someone is really good at.

    Find out which people are willing to learn new things - the jury may be out on so-called stretch goals, but observing which employees seem to embrace new things, to try and take advantage of the free time to learn new skills can be an important and illustrative predictor of who might be ready for a new project or a more challenging type of 'real' assignment. 

    Sense where natural teams form and whether or not they work - A great aspect of hack day programs is that they allow and encourage teams to form across the organization often where the normal course of business does not require. Seeing where teams and groups form, and also who decides to work solo, can give leaders some clues towards project team composition, and creates opportunities for people from different functions to offer different insights in areas they usually would not see.

    You can probably tell I am a huge fan of the hack day idea. Maybe extreme examples like the 37Signals hack month are not reasonable, or even wise, for most organizations, but certainly just about every organization could benefit from taking at least some time every few months to open up, let go of the reins, and see what the employees can really do. And the pitch day with the entire team assembled? That is money all day.

    What do you think - does your organization have similar hack days? And if not, why not?

    Happy Monday!