Cecile Alper-Leroux – Ultimate Software's Blog https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com Thoughts on Putting People First in the Workplace Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:49:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 What is the Best Way to Lead? https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/great-leadership/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/great-leadership/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:48:40 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1126 What are the traits of great leadership for the future of work? It’s a question I am often asked by audience members during my varied speaking engagements. It’s a great question, since leadership—like everything else in today’s blistering pace of change—must be dynamic. Leaders must evolve as employees do, to direct organizations that operate and […]

The post What is the Best Way to Lead? appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
leadershipWhat are the traits of great leadership for the future of work? It’s a question I am often asked by audience members during my varied speaking engagements. It’s a great question, since leadership—like everything else in today’s blistering pace of change—must be dynamic.

Leaders must evolve as employees do, to direct organizations that operate and are managed differently. I’m referring to the movement in many companies toward project-based teamwork involving both full-time and non-permanent employees, tasks performed on a mobile “anywhere” basis, and the positive trend toward employee inclusiveness, in which each person’s self-defined uniqueness is seen as the asset it is. (See my related post, Are You Ready for True Workforce Fluidity?) Certainly, this is not your grandfather’s business to lead.

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, companies were often run with military precision. During World War II, 10 high-ranking management theorists were recruited by the U.S. Air Force to enhance operations. When the war ended, Ford Motor Company snapped them up. They inserted the military’s “org charts” into Ford’s structure, creating divisions, departments, and jobs based on a person’s specific expertise. This ensured work was appropriately doled out, supervised, and completed. Other companies soon incorporated similar structures across the industrialized world.

As one might imagine, leaders of these businesses were akin to military generals. They commanded the organization from the boardroom, rather than the war room. This structure was right (for the times) and proved its merit. American companies quickly became the best in the world. And then the Internet, smartphones, the cloud, cognitive computing, and the Internet of Things burgeoned to seriously change things—democratizing decision-making and communications.

So what is today’s definition of “great leadership”? To draw a clearer picture, I turned to the source of the last century’s business leadership model—the military. I asked Lieutenant General George Flynn, now retired, for his perspective on the subject.

Lt. Gen. Flynn enjoyed a distinguished career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was the Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration and the Commanding General of the Combat Development Command in Quantico, Virginia. He is an advisor to Ultimate Software and many other corporations, and is a brilliant resource on leadership strategy.

You may know Lt. Gen. Flynn as the inspiration for a book by the best-selling author Simon Sinek. Sinek had interviewed him to learn more about the Marine Corps’ style of leadership. He boiled it down to these three words—“Officers eat last.” Sinek was so taken with the response he named his book after it (Leaders Eat Last). I recently sat down with George to ask what he meant by his comment.

“It’s really pretty simple,” he said. “If you treat your team as the most important resource in your organization, they become committed to you and the purpose of the organization. It shows your respect and the fact that you care so much about them that they deserve only the best. And that includes eating first, beginning with the most junior officer and ending with the most senior officer.”

He added, “That’s the ‘cost of leadership,’ as I explained it to Simon.”

This leadership philosophy seems at odds with today’s corporate guidance. Few CEOs know the names of employees other than their direct reports. Many of them eat with other senior executives in a separate part of the company cafeteria and have large offices away from the rest of their employees. Certainly, this is not an “officers eat last” approach. Rather, it suggests rank—people separated based on their perceived value and contributions to the success of the organization. There is a shift happening in some companies where CEOs are forgoing offices for shared office space, and the impact is significant for employees. As George put it, “Whoever is leading must form trusted relationships with those being led.”

Our discussion moved on to today’s millennial workers. George commented that this generation of employees tends to demand more from its leaders. “They want to know the ‘why’ before they buy into the project,” he explained. “When they believe in the value of what needs to be done, they’re very giving of their time and effort. They’ll go the extra mile if they understand the purpose behind the tasks and believe in that purpose.”

Without this understanding, millennials (really all employees) are more likely to search for new employment. To keep them, leaders must ensure they have meaningful work that leads to the development of new skills. “Millennials need to be trained and empowered to take risks on behalf of the organization, to progress in their careers,” George said. How can today’s business leaders, particularly those at the helm of large, far-flung organizations, ensure full buy-in from the “troops”? George responded that there are specific times on any given day when a leader can demonstrate valued leadership. “We call them ‘defining moments,’” he said. “The moments differ, but examples include how the person makes a difficult decision or handles a mistake. Word of mouth quickly spreads to form an opinion about the leader.”

These opinions are the basis for following the leader. “In my experience, I’ve come across three levels of leadership,” said George. “The first is when people follow you because you’ve been given the authority to control them. The second is they follow you because they trust you and will, therefore, take risks for you. The third level is they follow you because they believe in you and your mission. At that level, they’ll make personal sacrifices for you. Down deep, all people want to be part of something bigger than themselves.”

I couldn’t agree more. When we feel we are part of something important led by a leader we believe in, work becomes much more than just work. It becomes part of our purpose and identity.

The post What is the Best Way to Lead? appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/great-leadership/feed/ 0
We’re All Biased, But We Can Get Better https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/implicit-biases/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/implicit-biases/#respond Thu, 06 Jul 2017 12:09:52 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1043 Like many people, I do all I can every day to value people for their character and contributions, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, age, gender, national origin, cultural heritage, sexual orientation, disability, and size or shape. But, probably like many of you, I still have work to do to truly know and be aware of […]

The post We’re All Biased, But We Can Get Better appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
Like many people, I do all I can every day to value people for their character and contributions, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, age, gender, national origin, cultural heritage, sexual orientation, disability, and size or shape.

implicit biasesBut, probably like many of you, I still have work to do to truly know and be aware of my implicit biases—the stereotypes that affect my assumptions and actions in an unconscious way. As a longstanding champion of diversity and inclusion, I realize we are probably better at the diversity part than inclusion, which is much harder—after all, eradicating implicit biases to make all employees feel they belong and are valued equally is incredibly tricky and important.

With diversity, companies can tally up their triumphs, citing the percentages of different types of people they employ. Inclusion, on the other hand, is less tangible, but even more important in creating a great workplace culture. If people sense that others are judging them because they are “different,” this adversely affects their freedom of expression, ability to collaborate, and overall work engagement and productivity. In short, people begin to second-guess themselves.

Implicit bias is not full-out racism, sexism, or any of the other bad –isms. We all are susceptible to rash judgments that have no basis in truth. They’re hardwired into our DNA. We do our best to ignore them, but they’re frustratingly resilient, coloring our decisions in ways we may not even realize.

This point came home to me in a recent discussion with a colleague, Jarik Conrad. Jarik is a deep thinker and eloquent speaker, who is African-American. He’s got firsthand experience being on the other end of implicit bias and far worse prejudices. He also has the wisdom and a great sense of humor to recognize his own implicit biases. Growing up in East St. Louis in a largely African-American community, Jarik was a basketball standout. “If two kids came up to us on the court wanting to join us in a game and one was black and the other white, we’d always choose the black kid since white boys can’t jump,” he told me laughing. “Then, I played basketball in college and realized white boys really can jump.”

Jarik tells this story on the speaking circuit and it always gets its share of laughs. Then he explains what it has been like to be a talented, articulate, smart person in a black body. “It’s the first thing anybody ever recognizes about me,” he said. “The same thing happens to other people, based on their gender, sexual orientation, religion, and so on. Our intelligence, skill sets, humor, work ethic, and other productive personal aspects take a back seat.”

Deborah Dagit knows the feeling. A former chief diversity officer, Deb is a little person. In 2013, she opened her own diversity-consulting business because she was “plain fed up,” she said, with people not seeing her as she truly is. “When I interacted with an employee who’d never met a little person before, they couldn’t get through the shock and awe of the experience,” she said. “It just made the day exhausting to have to educate others about what it is like to be a little person.”

Why are we all so bewildered by others’ differences? Jarik has studied the phenomenon. “The brain has a default mechanism that recognizes someone different as a potential predator or adversary, which sets in motion our `flight or fight’ response,” he explained. “When our brains are not aware of others’ differences, we experience an implicit expectation that they are just like us.”

This makes great sense, but it does not let us off the hook when it comes to doing what is necessary to train our brains accordingly. “The only way to teach our brains not to experience implicit biases is to spend significant time with others who are different from ourselves,” Jarik said.

Deb agreed. “Spending time in conversation and engaged in projects and tasks with groups of people who are different helps many people become more comfortable with each other’s differences,” she said. “But you need a regular diet of such diversity-immersion experiences. It’s not a `one and done’ thing to authentically appreciate and cherish each other’s differences.”

These are excellent strategies. Another is to continually gauge how your diverse workforce actually feels about their work experiences, with special attention paid to their supervision by managers and team leaders. We turned this idea into an opportunity to help organizations via Ultimate Software’s UltiPro Perception™ solution, leveraging advanced natural language processing and machine learning technology to really listen to and understand employees.

Most organizations rely on the annual (and massive) employee engagement survey to take the pulse of employees, but by the time the findings are produced, the results are dated. At Ultimate, we’ve developed a timelier and smarter way to understand people’s emotions—soliciting employees’ open-ended feedback on their work interactions via regular and easy-to-complete feedback. Powered by Xander™, our underlying “People First” artificial technology platform, UltiPro can tease out specific cultural themes, as well as deterrents and recommendations, for immediate action. Even good managers can lack communications skills. The problem is they don’t always know it.

As Deb and Jarik would agree, self-knowledge is crucial to creating a work environment that is authentically inclusive. Now that I better understand my own implicit biases and their origins, I plan to spend more time with people who appear different, training my brain to appreciate others’ extraordinariness as extraordinary, because at the end of the day, that’s what has always driven me… people, amazing people.

The post We’re All Biased, But We Can Get Better appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/implicit-biases/feed/ 0
Navigating the Complexities of Listening to the VoE https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/listening-voe/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/listening-voe/#respond Fri, 19 May 2017 10:00:20 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1000 The reality of having five generations in the workforce is upon us, as Gen Z begins to enter the workforce. At over 74 million strong and growing, these post-millennials “digital natives” are poised to become the largest working generation yet. They share many similarities with the millennials, but also have their own unique set of […]

The post Navigating the Complexities of Listening to the VoE appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
The reality of having five generations in the workforce is upon us, as Gen Z begins to enter the workforce. At over 74 million strong and growing, these post-millennials “digital natives” are poised to become the largest working generation yet. They share many similarities with the millennials, but also have their own unique set of expectations and assumptions they bring to work (see my LinkedIn blog post about truly communicating).

I travel quite a bit, and I always come away from my many conversations with HR and business leaders with incredible, and often poignant, examples of the new reality of working with the changing workforce. I am continually made aware of how a simple slight can have lasting implications for many people in the workplace, and how significant it can be to simply hear a person’s concerns and respond to them.

When discussing this at a recent presentation to HR leaders, an audience member affirmed the importance of listening to your employees, recounting a recent exit interview they conducted with a valued employee. The employee said, “I asked a question and never got a response. I just wanted a response. I could have handled the answer either way, but I never (even) got a response.” Sounds simple enough; we all get busy with the flow of work life and may assume that not responding will be taken as a sign that we don’t yet have an answer or are busy. But it could just as easily be seen as a sign that the person and question don’t merit a response—and clearly our assumptions can be dangerous, as this HR leader found out.

Another instance is related to feeling whole and safe at work. In Ultimate Software’s 2016 study about satisfaction at work, 95% of respondents said “the ability to truly be themselves” is directly tied to their satisfaction on the job. Six out of 10 people said that feeling emotionally unsafe at work would cause them to quit—on the spot. I heard a story of how one long-time employee had made all the difference for a transgender colleague by being vocal, and even protective, in his acceptance of the employee’s change in gender.

That same week, I was asked by a customer about how to handle fluid gender identity when current U.S. EEO compliance reporting requires either male or female identification (learn more in my post about workforce fluidity). I was glad to let him know that, at Ultimate, we provide our employees and our customers voice and choice with configurable technology, to provide them with local flexibility while ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. Listening, rather than dismissing the request as an edge case, not only made our customer able to support his employees better, but also demonstrated that if HR supports one person in an unusual situation, they will support everyone in more commonly occurring scenarios. The key is to listen and act.

This is the kind of stuff that led many of us to get into the work of HR and people leadership, and is why it is so critically important and meaningful for organizations to be prepared for the conversations they will be having with their employees in the coming months and years. It’s why, at Ultimate, we have an initiative to truly listen to the “Voice of the Employee” (VoE) and follow through with action, and it’s why we are repeatedly ranked as a Best Company to Work For.

Leaders are often told their people are their priority, though in the bustle of the day to day, that can be lost. But be assured that, for the employees, a conversation that may seem less than critical to a leader can mean everything…even a reason to leave.

 

The post Navigating the Complexities of Listening to the VoE appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/listening-voe/feed/ 0
Predictions for 2017: Serving People with Emerging HR Technologies https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/hr-technologies-serving-people/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/hr-technologies-serving-people/#comments Wed, 22 Feb 2017 11:00:49 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=893 Thriving in our rapidly changing and increasingly disrupted modern business environment will require organizations to both recognize major cultural shifts (see my blog post about Workforce Fluidity) while taking advantage of incredible new technologies. In this post, I explore a few of the potentially most impactful emerging and maturing technologies that are gaining traction in […]

The post Predictions for 2017: Serving People with Emerging HR Technologies appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
Thriving in our rapidly changing and increasingly disrupted modern business environment will require organizations to both recognize major cultural shifts (see my blog post about Workforce Fluidity) while taking advantage of incredible new technologies.

In this post, I explore a few of the potentially most impactful emerging and maturing technologies that are gaining traction in the realm of HR and will transform how HR and business leaders serve employees in 2017 and the coming years. Note that, regardless of the technology, putting people first is a must in 2017, as your people grow increasingly comfortable explicitly telling you, their employers, about their expectations of working within your organizations.

Augmented Intelligence, Human-Machine Interfaces, and Ambient HR Enter the Scene

People-first, people-centered, inter-connected technology that augments us. 

I’m not a huge fan of the newest buzzword, AI (Artificial Intelligence). It has negative connotations, evoking the deadly HAL or marginally useful benevolent robots, as well as the idea that insights from AI are somehow “artificial” or less than true. I prefer the more apt “augmented intelligence,” which is simply technology that mimics (not replaces) human cognitive processes, augmenting and extending human thought processing capabilities in terms of speed and volume data crunching, even avoiding putting humans in harm’s way.

“Ambient HR” refers to a future in which the ability of HR professionals to listen to the voice of employees (VoE) is increased by using distributed data collection touch points (think Google or Amazon Dots). These future technologies will help us advance beyond today’s latest “text-to-meaning” advanced natural language processing and machine-learning algorithms to uncover not only what employees are saying, but also how they feel about topics such as people practices, work environment, and leadership. In essence, allowing HR and managers to be in more than one place at a time, learning about the sentiment and “health of the organization” through distributed data-collection interfaces that capture human interactions with each other and with their surroundings.

The aggregation of cognitive-capable distributed technology will transform HR from traditional, mechanical systems of management that rely on people to selectively provide feedback in the industrial economy to an even smarter, augmented, context-aware human ecosystem.

The true benefits of these technologies will become most apparent in its ability to extend what a human could realistically do, hear, and process. We will literally be able to be in more than one place at a time, gathering input about how people feel and measuring the emotional health of your team—something a single leader could not possibly physically accomplish! This actual (albeit virtual) contact, and the ensuing insight, is invaluable for workers who crave more frequent and open communication.

Today’s workers want their leaders and organizations to hear their concerns, be open to more communication in the context of their work, and provide greater purpose and meaning in their work. (Refer to our 2016 research for more on this topic.) Such smart technologies as augmented intelligence and distributed technology that extends beyond mobile in the cloud have unleashed extraordinary possibilities for people at work.

The Configurability Imperative Serves All People

Nimble, flexible solutions that support the way people really work.

People are increasingly rejecting the traditional binary constructs of self-identification and a new vernacular is taking hold in the popular culture that is making its way into the workplace. This makes system configurability an absolute must for modern organizations, who must accommodate new definitions of how employees identify themselves so people can be true to themselves at work, as they are in their lives outside of work.

Also, as teamwork replaces “command and control” workforce structures, new work paradigms are emerging that center on more fluid notions of work, jobs, and the people who perform them. Being able to come together as a working group, having the organization acknowledge that grouping, and even being able to reassemble the same combination of successful colleagues, becomes a work imperative beyond simply tagging an individual’s work-group affiliations for identification.

Finally, gig economy employees will make up more than 40 percent of the workforce by 2020. These workers will have more flexible and virtual work schedules—a necessity in a global workspace with 24/7 connectivity—and fill short-term assignments. Preparing organizations will require new, more extensible systems of helping manage people and work, bringing together knowledge of people and work systems—long silos of information in different technology solutions.

The Rise of Virtual and Augmented Reality Experiences

A “day in the life” gets real.

Wouldn’t we all love a crystal ball that we could look into to see what we are getting ourselves into? That is quickly becoming a reality—actually, a virtual reality.

Less than five years ago, virtual reality experiences were prohibitively expensive for organizations, other than gaming companies that could commercialize the experiences on a big scale. Today, creating a virtual reality experience is not only affordable for organizations (school districts are beginning to use virtual reality experiences to help elementary school children explore different careers), but it is an excellent way to connect with more tech-savvy candidates who want to be certain they are joining an organization that values technology (a recent study we conducted with  The Center for Generational Kinetics showed a third of U.S. workers would quit a job if their company used legacy technology).

If virtual reality changes how we see the entire world around us, augmented reality can change how we interact with it, blending reality and virtual reality seamlessly. Job candidates could be encouraged to see themselves in “their new office” while exchanging texts with future co-workers they are connected with on LinkedIn…all before they have accepted the job, helping to cement the deal.

So, why not share a virtually real “day in the life” of the work experience you offer your employees?! It could make all the difference in getting that key person to join your team.

The post Predictions for 2017: Serving People with Emerging HR Technologies appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/hr-technologies-serving-people/feed/ 3
Workforce Trends: What to Expect in 2017 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/workforce-hr-trends-expect-2017/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/workforce-hr-trends-expect-2017/#respond Fri, 02 Dec 2016 11:09:08 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=735 As we approach the end of 2016, we are compelled to look ahead to what we can expect in the new year! With that in mind, here are my predictions for the world of people-first HR and business. The Voice of the Employee (VoE) Takes Center Stage Customer satisfaction surveys have long been seen as […]

The post Workforce Trends: What to Expect in 2017 appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
As we approach the end of 2016, we are compelled to look ahead to what we can expect in the new year! With that in mind, here are my predictions for the world of people-first HR and business.

The Voice of the Employee (VoE) Takes Center Stage

Customer satisfaction surveys have long been seen as the best way to understand how well organizations are meeting the needs of their customers. More recently, the Voice of the Customer (VoC) has become more nuanced with Customer Journey Maps and Net Promoter Scores. As organizations recognize that to truly serve their customers they must invest in creating a great experience for their employees at work, the traditional employee engagement survey – often viewed as the way to assess how employees feel at work – is no longer an adequate tool to capture the true Voice of the Employee (VoE).

Thanks to advances in natural language processing technologies, in 2017, organizations can look to Ultimate Software’s new UltiPro PerceptionTM solution to continually scan their environments and get a deep understanding of the true sentiment of their people.

Organizations focused on retaining their best people will have to begin adopting these tools or risk losing the hearts and minds of their people – ultimately affecting their bottom line.

Your Workforce is Becoming More Fluid

The traditional workforce is changing faster than our organizations can keep up and it is becoming increasingly obvious to many business leaders. A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Ultimate Software, October 2016, found that nearly 90% of HR and line of business professionals who influence their companies’ HR policies agree that the way employees work is becoming more fluid, flexible, and dynamic.

The notion of defining oneself as one thing at work vs. “at home” is not new, but the blurring of lines and new ways to identify oneself is new and it is having a significant impact in the workplace, creating the need for a new kind of HR and for organizations to offer ever more fluid people policies and philosophies in 2017 and beyond.

Workers want more choice and flexibility in how they approach tasks (more collaboratively), jobs (more frequent changes and exploration), opportunities to advance in their careers (more quickly, and in a less linear fashion), and define themselves at work (in a more personalized, holistic way) – a trend I call “Workforce Fluidity.”

The Primacy of the Employee Manager Relationship

“People don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” This statement has been floating around HR circles for decades… for good reason. Employees experience work and the culture of the organization primarily through interactions with their direct manager.

People today don’t want to be “managed.” They want leaders who inspire them to greatness, challenge them, and communicate openly with them, coaching them to be their best selves at work.

Looking ahead to 2017, I expect more and more companies to invest heavily in developing managers to become better leaders, and we also will begin to see the fruits of these efforts. New diagnostic and prescriptive analytics tools will support manager development on a day-to-day basis – ushering in a new era of humanized people “management.”

HR Agility Will Become the New Mode of Supporting Organizations

2017 will continue to see our workplaces evolve into more human, people-centered spaces. Rather than reacting to pressure from business leaders and employees, HR leaders will rethink traditional policies to meet the needs of a more open and expressive workforce, taking a front seat in driving successful business outcomes.

This will do two things for Human Resource Professionals: we will become more innovative, nimble, and observant, and we will be forced to adapt existing HR processes and practices to create more agile, human-natured organizations.

This shift began a few years ago with the transformation of performance into a more dynamic, coaching-focused process; in 2017 however, HR leaders will have to rethink paid time off and compensation processes, two areas that are woefully out of synch with the workforce of today.

Culture Shapes the Employee Experience 

We all know that there can be a significant difference between an organization’s mission statement and what employees experience, or, what really goes on within an organization. People entering the workforce in 2017 and beyond tend to be less trusting of authority, making it more important for organizations to gain the trust of their employees by demonstrating that they “walk the walk and talk the talk.” This requires a culture of listening and taking action on employee concerns.

Supported by smarter more perceptive technologies in 2017, organizations will finally be able to “see” their culture at work and detect gaps in alignment between employees and the stated mission and values of the organization, supporting organizations in being deliberate and focused on defining philosophies and policies that address how people experience their work lives, and how the organization treats and interacts with their people and customers.

The post Workforce Trends: What to Expect in 2017 appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/workforce-hr-trends-expect-2017/feed/ 0
Going With the Flow https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/a-job-by-any-other-name-workforce-fluidity-job-flexibility-hcm-hr/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/a-job-by-any-other-name-workforce-fluidity-job-flexibility-hcm-hr/#respond Tue, 13 Sep 2016 08:47:16 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=689 In my last two blogs, I addressed two emerging workforce phenomena—identity fluidity and organizational fluidity. Another paradigm shift on the horizon is what I call “job fluidity,” in which people prefer not to be tied to, or identified by, a specific job description. Rather, they “go with the flow,” coursing between initiatives and supervisors to […]

The post Going With the Flow appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
In my last two blogs, I addressed two emerging workforce phenomena—identity fluidity and organizational fluidity. Another paradigm shift on the horizon is what I call “job fluidity,” in which people prefer not to be tied to, or identified by, a specific job description. Rather, they “go with the flow,” coursing between initiatives and supervisors to maximize the breadth of their many talents.

With job fluidity, each employee becomes much more than the person’s profession, title, or job description. Giving a worker the fluidity to move between multiple projects, tasks, or even job roles without the restrictions imposed by formal transfers presents an individual with extraordinary opportunities and challenges. These enriching experiences can benefit the organization as well, resulting in a more engaged, broadly talented, and productive employees. The rapidly growing gig economy is one testament to people’s comfort with more fluid notions of the job and one’s work.

Major sociocultural shifts are blurring the lines that define what we do, how we work, and who we are. See how these changes will impact workforce fluidity.Job fluidity is comparable to identity fluidity—how employees self-identify, jettisoning binary descriptions like “he” or “she,” and “introvert” or “extrovert.” It is also analogous to organizational fluidity, where the reality of how work actually gets done has little to do with formal organization structures that confine a person’s breadth of talents, and more with their ability to effectively collaborate with others in teams.

In combination, these movements in fluidity describe a new type of organization, in which management is dynamically distributed across teams of people, rather than restricted to a hierarchal “command and control” structure. Categorizing an employee’s job with a specific description and title is perceived as reductive, as it overlooks the many other talents the person may possess, in addition to their curiosity to learn new skills.

I looked up the origin of the word “company,” and was surprised to learn that it derives from the Latin word for “companion.” Certainly, a command-and-control structure has very little to do with people companionably working together on a project or other initiative. A companion is someone to whom you can freely express (and comfortably receive) an opinion. In a work setting, one would not want these colleagues to be limited in the range of their ideas because of restrictive job descriptions.

If an employee’s capabilities are not recognized and stretched, it increases their feelings of estrangement and disengagement from their work, culminating in retention problems for employers. Millennials, in particular, are especially prone to leaving an organization that limits the fullest expression of their ideas, or fails to fulfill their personal and career aspirations.

Such individuals (don’t we all?) want to be recruited by companies with a mission that is clear, purposeful, and meaningful, and then be given the autonomy to fulfill this mission the best they can. What they don’t want are tightly defined job descriptions that limit their capacity to learn and grow, or worse, that provide an “out,” enabling people to avoid challenging themselves and being challenged by others “because it isn’t part of the job.” Give them a specific job title and a restricted set of responsibilities and they will learn all they can, then fly off to another company to acquire their next set of skills.

Employers cannot empower this new workforce without advocating fluid job assignments. Job assignments need to be defined according to the work that needs to be accomplished, as opposed to an individual’s perceived role in the organization. Jenny may be a terrific writer in the marketing department, who, by the way, also happens to be an excellent public speaker. What a waste of talent to keep her at a keyboard all day.

Job fluidity is already having an effect on job titles. Zappos is among several companies that have eliminated job titles, flattening the organization to achieve a system of self-governance. The online shoe store has liberated its employees from its former organizational hierarchy, encouraging them to work together autonomously. In this workspace, authority is distributed to team members to make their own agile decisions, as opposed to being delegated by managers.

The Zappos example may not be practical for all industries and people, but providing some level of fluid experimentation in job duties and assignment rotation, going beyond low-risk internship programs, is much more likely to encourage unexpected collaborations and innovation to the benefit of all.

We live and work in a fast-changing world, where business moves at a blistering pace. Static job descriptions bound by hierarchical org charts and office politics will only slow the corporate engine. They also risk disengaging talented employees and can result in half-baked decisions. The alternative is a dynamic, democratic, and fluid work environment. As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments!

The post Going With the Flow appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/a-job-by-any-other-name-workforce-fluidity-job-flexibility-hcm-hr/feed/ 0
“Charting” a New Course for the Organization https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/charting-new-course-organization-workforce-fluidity/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/charting-new-course-organization-workforce-fluidity/#respond Fri, 05 Aug 2016 11:20:18 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=645 In the booming postwar Mad Men era, the predominant work structure in American companies was hierarchical. For returning soldiers, this “command-and-control structure” was something they were used to in their military service. Since the workforce was almost exclusively male, particularly in management roles, this structure conformed closely to their notions of social groupings, which also […]

The post “Charting” a New Course for the Organization appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
In the booming postwar Mad Men era, the predominant work structure in American companies was hierarchical. For returning soldiers, this “command-and-control structure” was something they were used to in their military service.

Since the workforce was almost exclusively male, particularly in management roles, this structure conformed closely to their notions of social groupings, which also tend to be hierarchical. Everyone had a specific place in the hierarchy, and implicit rules existed to guide communications and collaborations with others.

In time, this hierarchical structure engendered the development of the “traditional org chart,” in which the relationship between roles and positions in an organization were formulated, based on a company’s financial-accounts structure and its employees’ cost centers. A typical org chart directs how authority and information flows between people. In today’s vastly interconnected global business environment, hierarchical work structures and their unbending progeny, org charts, have very little to do with how how work actually is conducted.

At Ultimate, we believe org charts can serve a larger purpose—helping people connect with others whose skills and interests they share, using visualization to help employees discover and form relationships across the organization, much like a social network, with the individual as the initial point of reference rather than the highest point in the formal hierarchy.

Workforce FluidityTechnologies like social media, artificial intelligence, augmented intelligence, 24-7 mobility, and the cloud have unleashed extraordinary possibilities for people to work better as a group, rather than in rigidly assigned job roles as per the org chart. People can now move fluidly from one assignment to another, organizing around the work that needs to be done, in concert with others engaged with them in the particular task.

This freedom of thought and action is what I refer to as “organizational fluidity,” one of the three components of “Workforce Fluidity.” It recognizes the reality of how work actually gets done, which has little to do with formal organization structures that confine a person’s breadth of talents. Rather, the assignment, creation, and even choice of work is increasingly determined by a person’s competence, curiosity, and ability to effectively collaborate with others in self-organized teams, when the organization is forward-looking enough to recognize the benefits of such a dynamic way of working.

Today’s far-flung global workforce comprises more than just full-time employees, including such non-permanent workers as independent contractors, temps, freelancers, and other contingent workers. These individuals enrich an organization by bringing in specific expertise and new ideas from outside the organization. They help fill skill-set gaps and the temporary void caused by an employee leaving the organization. The irony is that these non-salaried workers have more organizational fluidity, thanks to their flexible and virtual work schedules. In a global workspace with constant connectivity, everyone should have the same.

Imagine when this is indeed the case, as it will soon be. People with wide-ranging skills participate in teams, flowing between initiatives and supervisors to maximize their contributions. No longer is someone with multiple talents restricted to employing a single skill, simply because that’s how the person is defined and subsequently tasked by supervisors. Without a hierarchical work structure, the value of everyone’s big brains and breadth of experience comes together in a brainstorming whirlwind of ideas, concepts, discussions, and debates to grow the business.

Already this is occurring in a growing number of companies, many of them startup enterprises where workers have the opportunity to fluidly move from one project to another, one task to another, even one job role to another, and then back again. Each time they make these journeys, they enliven parts of their multifold talents that otherwise would have remained dormant, while learning new skills from others in the collaborative work environment. In such organizations, employee engagement is not a problem.

Small wonder that many younger employees are demanding a fluid organizational structure and culture as a condition of employment. If you don’t hire them, the competition will. Timing is everything in life and business.

In my next blog, I’ll dive into a related form of fluidity bubbling to the top in many companies—job fluidity, embracing how work actually is accomplished today. In a business world where job titles are less important than teamwork, people will have more control of the assignments they take on—to the betterment of their lives and the business success of the organization.

Once again, my goal with these blogs is to inspire deeper thinking and the startup of conversations. Please respond—affirmatively or negatively or somewhere in between.

The post “Charting” a New Course for the Organization appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/charting-new-course-organization-workforce-fluidity/feed/ 0
Are You Ready for True Workforce Fluidity? https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/workforce-fluidity-future-of-work/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/workforce-fluidity-future-of-work/#respond Fri, 13 May 2016 12:58:49 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=573 The composition of today’s working population is changing faster than organizations and their policies can react. For the first time in history, five different generations are in the American workforce. Their expectations vary when defining what work is—and how one conducts it—at a time of tremendous upheaval in traditional workplace paradigms. Today’s workforce comprises more […]

The post Are You Ready for True Workforce Fluidity? appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
The composition of today’s working population is changing faster than organizations and their policies can react. For the first time in history, five different generations are in the American workforce. Their expectations vary when defining what work is—and how one conducts it—at a time of tremendous upheaval in traditional workplace paradigms.

Today’s workforce comprises more than just full-time employees. Provisional or non-permanent workers—such as independent contractors, temporary employees, freelancers, and other contingent workers—are expected to make up 40% of the workforce by 2020. Their short-term assignments, or “gigs,” have even fostered a new phrase—the “gig economy.” Other changes include flexible and virtual work schedules, job sharing, cross-training, and a greater emphasis on collaborative teamwork.

While these trends are beginning to reshape how companies operate, and how people work, an even more profound shift is underway that will have a lasting effect on the workforce of the future.

I call it workforce fluidity: the next iteration of workplace changes, driven by the increasing importance and visibility of individualization. What do I mean by individualization? The answer is simple: Our complex nature as human beings makes each one of us a singular person. Every one of our choices to be who we define ourselves to be is legally protected by our constitutional rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 further protects these choices in the workplace, disallowing discrimination in job hiring, termination, and promotions based on a person’s race, color, creed, and gender.

This seismic cultural shift in how people define themselves can be seen as an extension of the movement toward self-definition and nonconformity that began after the 1950s, yet it has reached a point where people can now choose to reject classification entirely. Today the individual is more fluid, wears many hats, and, increasingly, blurs the lines between definitions of profession, work, and even identity. Workforce fluidity encompasses not only flexible/virtual work assignments and the emphasis on collaborative teamwork, but also considers shifting corporate hierarchies and eliminating job titles (something Zappos has already done), or even the construct of a job, valuing contribution to multiple teams and results instead. It also includes the reality that every person—each team member—is a uniquely original human being, to whom care and respect must be accorded to ensure their individualism is not diminished, intentionally or unintentionally.

These issues are not new in themselves. However, the interaction of these forces—individualization, job, and organizational fluidity—becomes a formidable phenomenon. The elements of fluidity cannot be understood in isolation because each alone only partially constitutes the issue and magnitude of true workforce fluidity.

And there is a further dimension: I believe organizations that fail to thoughtfully address workforce fluidity in all its forms—job fluidity (people not tied to or identified by a specific job description, but able to flow between initiatives and supervisors to maximize their contribution. The choice of work assigned in partnership and consideration of the person’s curiosity and competence, as well as organizational need); organization fluidity (the reality of how work gets done, alternative collaborative constructs, the absence of formal organization structures, and even team-based hiring and compensation); and, finally, identity fluidity (the self-definition of people, who may reject generational stereotypes or the limitations of binary identity categories “black” or “white,” “male” or “female,” as Facebook has by offering users 71 identity attributes to choose from when creating one’s profile)—could run the risk of becoming less appealing destinations for employees and job seekers alike.

Those of us in the HR arena are bearing witness to these profound societal changes, perhaps more so than others, as they begin to enter the workplace. Certainly, this is disruptive, as all sociocultural shifts are. As people challenge the traditional classifications of their lives outside of work, they will increasingly expect their work colleagues across five generations to understand and appreciate their individuality.

Because Ultimate’s mission is to put people first—whether it’s how we support our employees; how we operate, design, and develop solutions; or how we serve our customers—we think that nothing is more “People First” than understanding how the workplace is changing based on drivers like workforce fluidity. It is our responsibility as a people-first organization to advance the discussion around this evolving topic and its implications for the workforce at large, and to explore concrete implementations. To that end, I’d like to get your thoughts and comments on a workforce fluidity maturity model to help organizations assess where they fall on the continuum of workforce fluidity. It is clear that not all companies will reach full workforce fluidity, nor would it be authentic for every organization to do so. My aim is to start a conversation about this most human subject, thinking along with you about the ramifications of true workforce fluidity for customers, colleagues, solutions, and our own behaviors in the workplace.

Tomorrow's workforce expects more flexibility than today's. Read more on the future of work now.

The post Are You Ready for True Workforce Fluidity? appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/workforce-fluidity-future-of-work/feed/ 0
Employee Engagement Evolves: The Employee Experience and Finding Your Employees’ Voice https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-engagement-evolves-employee-voice/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-engagement-evolves-employee-voice/#respond Thu, 21 Apr 2016 09:22:06 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=546 Employee engagement is on every HR and business leader’s mind, in one form or another. The value of having a highly engaged workforce for an organization’s success is undeniable, but the way to get there remains elusive. As much as 51% of the global workforce feels disengaged at work, according to Gallup, outnumbering actively engaged […]

The post Employee Engagement Evolves: The Employee Experience and Finding Your Employees’ Voice appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
Employee engagement is on every HR and business leader’s mind, in one form or another. The value of having a highly engaged workforce for an organization’s success is undeniable, but the way to get there remains elusive.

As much as 51% of the global workforce feels disengaged at work, according to Gallup, outnumbering actively engaged employees by 2:1. These numbers have remained largely unchanged for 30 years, despite all the dialogue on employee engagement. Clearly, something is missing.

Implement these three methods to improve employee engagement in your workforce. Reasons include paying employees on time, and respecting your worker's voices.

At our Connections conference in Las Vegas last month, we shared three ways HR leaders can help their organizations inspire engagement:

  1. Eliminate workplace hassles, freeing people up to contribute in meaningful ways.
  2. Pay people on time and accurately, because worries about personal finances can distract employees at work.
  3. Build stronger personal relationships between managers and employees, resulting in managers becoming better people leaders.

While these actions are all steps in the right direction, engagement can’t be achieved so easily. Or can it?

Perhaps the answer lies in flipping the question. Engagement itself isn’t the problem. Engagement is an outcome—a measure of the overall employee experience. Engagement is about bringing out the best in people, tapping into their full potential on a day-to-day basis. For that to happen, we must think of the employee experience as we do our customers’ experience, requiring continual, courageous, and honest communication.

Achieving an optimal employee experience requires a culture of openness, honesty, and trust; an environment in which people find purpose and meaning in their contributions; and effective leaders who encourage employees to discover, unlock, and fulfill their potential in the workplace.

The question then becomes two-fold: what do we do to create the optimized employee experience, and how do we know when we’ve got it? The answer may be creating an atmosphere in which your employees feel free to voice their true thoughts and feelings about their work and the workplace—creating a culture that respects the voice of the employee . Once you hear that voice, genuinely listen to it, and act on it, the transformation in employee experience becomes possible.

Employee voice is not the same as feedback, which often takes the form of traditional employee engagement surveys and newer pulse surveys. For your employees’ voice to truly emerge, your employees first have to believe it is okay to be honest, to reveal themselves. The voice of the employee, in essence, is a reflection or recounting of your employees’ actual experience at work.

Keep in mind that, until your people trust you’ll listen to their honest voice, your engagement data may be skewed. People might self-edit their feedback, say what they believe they need to say, or, even worse, remain silent.

Only when an organization has demonstrated, through policy and action, that it’s okay for each person to be one’s self at work, as in life, is that person able to be open and honest. In that climate, efforts to hear the employee voice will actually bear fruit. Only then can engagement be measured. Only then can your employee experience be optimized.

The post Employee Engagement Evolves: The Employee Experience and Finding Your Employees’ Voice appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-engagement-evolves-employee-voice/feed/ 0
HR Tips for the Road Ahead in 2016 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/hr-trends-2016/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/hr-trends-2016/#comments Fri, 22 Jan 2016 16:27:04 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=459 With 2015 now in our rear-view mirrors, it’s time to focus on the road ahead in 2016. This year is sure to present more challenges, such as ever-changing healthcare reform legislation, but also a lot of exciting opportunities—and ways to shift your thinking. As you buckle up for the ride and prepare to hit the […]

The post HR Tips for the Road Ahead in 2016 appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
With 2015 now in our rear-view mirrors, it’s time to focus on the road ahead in 2016. This year is sure to present more challenges, such as ever-changing healthcare reform legislation, but also a lot of exciting opportunities—and ways to shift your thinking. As you buckle up for the ride and prepare to hit the wide-open road, here are a few tips to help you navigate your scheduled route, avoid oncoming speed bumps, and accelerate your HCM in 2016.

Tips for HR in 2016 - Recruiting, Talent Management, ACA, and Global HCM

Sit in the driver’s seat to tune-up recruiting and talent management practices, keep your eyes on the ACA, and think globally about HCM in 2016.

Put Yourself in the Driver’s Seat

This year, don’t just work on being a better manager—focus on becoming a leader. Your team members have developed their goals and have mapped out where they hope to arrive by year’s end. You can help ensure they reach that destination.

We’re excited about the release of UltiPro’s “My Leadership Actions” tool. Using the power of predictive analytics and an assortment of data points, UltiPro empowers you with suggested directions and actions for proactively engaging your direct reports. Think of it as your GPS on the road to leadership.

Best of all, My Leadership Actions doesn’t just benefit managers. According to BI Worldwide, engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave an organization than non-engaged employees. In a true win-win for everyone, you develop your management skills, hone your ability to lead, and grow your own career, all while helping your employees grow theirs.

Tune-Up Your Recruiting Practices

Aren’t road trips always more fun with a great group of passengers? Before you ride too far down the HR highway, however, make time for a pit stop to reevaluate your recruiting processes.

Are you attracting—and, perhaps more importantly, retaining—the right talent for your organization? Think about what you can do differently or improve upon to bring the ideal fit onboard, a person who not only has the necessary skills for the position, but who also gels with your established workplace culture.

Don’t forget that, in 2015, millennials officially became the largest generation in the workforce. While some may think Gen Y brings too much baggage, millennials can certainly provide us with crucial insight into the evolving expectations of all employees—especially with regard to recruiting practices.

Keep Your Eyes on the ACA

With so many people and processes requiring our attention, it’s easy to get distracted and veer off in different directions. But as HR professionals, it’s especially important we keep our eyes on compliance. As in previous years, in 2016, we have to pay particular attention to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—or else we can end up paying costly citations.

The ACA has many moving parts. Proposed legislative changes continue to rotate around Congress, and there are likely to be more twists and turns ahead. But, don’t worry. Ultimate can help steer you clear of the stress and the confusion. Start by checking out our extensive ACA Resource Center, featuring helpful ACA guides, whitepapers, answers to FAQs, and much more.

You can also take an online test drive of UltiPro’s ACA Toolkit. See firsthand how Ultimate’s helping organizations across the United States navigate the ACA, from a dashboard for monitoring compliance requirements to functionality for rapid and accurate reporting. As a certified and IRS-approved transmitter, Ultimate can also assist with generating and filing all required 1094-C and 1095-C forms for the ACA.

Think Globally About HCM

Even if you’ve already charted your course and calculated your budget for the trip, always keep your map open and don’t be afraid to go beyond borders. Maybe your organization doesn’t currently operate on a global scale. The exciting news is it’s becoming easier than ever to expand into new markets.

As you continue on your HR travels this year, consider the realistic possibilities—and advantages—of exploring new territory. You have the potential to reach new people, build your network, remain connected no matter where you’re headquartered, and, ultimately, drive more business for your organization.

The best part? You don’t have to traverse these locations alone. Implement the global HCM strategy that works for your organization, and your employees can continue to collaborate and innovate together, from wherever they work.

We’ll cover each of these topics at greater length with additional blog posts throughout the year. For now, be sure to register for Ultimate’s free live webcast, “Break the Mold: What HR Should Be Doing Differently in 2016,” on Wednesday, January 27, at 2:00 P.M. EST. I’m pleased to join Claire Schooley, principal analyst on the Applications Development & Delivery team at Forrester Research, for an insightful discussion on transforming your overall approach to HCM. Our goal is to help you #RethinkHR—in 2016, and in the years ahead.

 

Suggested Article:

The post HR Tips for the Road Ahead in 2016 appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

]]>
https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/hr-trends-2016/feed/ 1