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Problem-solving – Creating a culture of blameless 

Problem-solving – Creating a culture of blameless

Companies that fail exceptionally have the potential for greatness.

Finance is complex, and whenever you have complication and uncertainty, it is a given that things will go wrong at some point. When they do, the best way to deal with those mistakes is to use them to learn and grow. And the only way an organisation can be aware of issues while they’re still small-scale is to create an environment in which employees and managers at all levels feel safe voicing their concerns and thoughts.

“The reality is human beings will make mistakes,” said Amy C. Edmondson, Novartis professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School and author of The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. “When we’re in novel settings, beyond just mistakes, we’ll also have failures that aren’t, strictly speaking, mistakes because no one’s ever been in that situation before. The most important thing is that you hear about what went wrong in a timely way because that’s how you can jump on it and avoid larger-scale problems.”

Companies that foster a culture of blameless problem-solving have the potential to learn from what goes wrong, and also to innovate, through smart experimentation, while companies that habitually blame individuals are in danger of running into large-scale disasters without a hint of impending doom, according to Edmondson.

Here are some tips for creating a workplace environment in which people feel they can speak up about what’s happening and collectively work hard to improve and avoid big problems:

Promote smart experimentation. Experimentation is how companies innovate and develop tomorrow’s new offerings, but you want to make sure that the experimentation strategy is a smart one. Organisations should never experiment on a grand scale in uncertain domains. Experiments need to be big enough to get valid data about their viability, but not so big that the potential failure will be devastating to the business.

“For organisations to create a culture that doesn’t blame or punish mistakes, they must embrace entrepreneurship culture,” said Ebrima Sawaneh, a Lagos-based accountant and finance blogger. “Every employee should be trained and empowered to innovate solutions without fear of being punished if they make genuine mistakes. Employees should be encouraged to report any mistake, and organisations have to clearly set what is acceptable and create a line of sight.”

Once you have a clear experiment strategy of an appropriate scale, you must make sure that everyone’s expectations are aligned.

“Everyone (high and low) must know that this is an experiment, and the nature of an experiment is we don’t yet know what will happen,” Edmondson said. “Make sure everyone is aware of the fact that this may or may not work, and in both cases, what happens will provide great data.”

Invite input. Leaders need to make it clear to people that their voice is not only expected but also welcomed.

“A lot of times, especially when they are nervous that there might be layoffs, people have the tendency to hold back,” Edmondson said. “There’s an implicit belief that no one ever got fired for silence. I think the job of leaders is to flip that around. In the complex, uncertain industry in which we operate, the people that we’re not hearing from are not of much value.”

Because the tendency for employees is to remain silent about issues, leaders need to be proactive in inviting input. It’s one thing to say, “I’d love to hear from all of you,” but it’s another to turn to a specific employee and ask, “What do you think of this situation? I’d love your thoughts.”

“After painting the situation we find ourselves in in such a way that it becomes clear that voice is necessary, leaders must be proactive in asking ‘What are you seeing out there? Is there anything not going well? What are you excited about?’” Edmondson said.

Foster psychological safety. In her latest book, Edmondson discusses why it matters for company performance that people feel psychologically safe to speak up and what leaders can do to help bring it about.

“I don’t mean to say we have to get rid of all fear,” Edmondson said. “I think it’s fine to be afraid of missing a deadline or afraid of the competition. It’s not fine to be afraid of one another or the boss.”

Edmondson explained that while managers have an outsized influence on the climate at work, any employee can make a more psychologically safe space for colleagues simply by showing up with a spirit of openness, asking questions, and truly listening.

“When you listen thoughtfully to a colleague or a subordinate, you are making a difference. You are making work life that much more safe and enriching,” she said. “In addition to asking questions, when you say things to colleagues, subordinates, or managers such as ‘I made a mistake’ or ‘That didn’t work out the way I thought,’ it sets a shining example of a learning orientation. If you model a learning orientation and interest in others, you will make that small difference, in your vicinity, in helping create a learning organisation.”

Sawaneh agrees that fostering psychological safety can help create a high-performing financial organisation.

“When people fear that they will be blamed for mistakes, it can affect their active participation and sometimes result in their being too careful,” he said. “The key resource of accounting firms are their people, and when individuals are less concerned about mistakes, they will be willing to delegate, create a learning culture, become team players, and embrace change.”

Avoid stretched goals and closed ears. While there are several examples of organisations doing a good job of creating a culture of blameless problem-solving, there are also examples of companies that have faced the consequences of squelching safe and open communication.

Wells Fargo’s recent failure, in which millions of accounts were created without consumers’ consent, is one such example. According to Edmondson, the bank’s initial cross-selling strategy wasn’t fully in touch with the reality of customers’ limited wallets, which created immense pressure to have more and more products per customer, leading employees to activities that became fraudulent and problematic in other ways. Had employees felt able to speak up, push back, and say what they were learning, the strategy might have been tweaked.

“A recipe for failure is stretch goals and closed ears,” Edmondson said. “When managers, getting the messages from on high, are saying, ‘You better deliver on this,’ the implied rest of that sentence is, or else. People will deliver, at least on the illusion of creating the desired results, so then what you will often see is the illusion of good performance rather than good performance itself.”

Develop a productive response to bad news. Psychological safety in the workplace can be shattered the second a boss erupts in anger over a reported failure.

“Leaders need to train themselves not to overreact emotionally to bad news,” Edmondson said. “They need to pause, breathe, and disrupt what might be the natural, instantaneous reaction of emotion or disapproval, and say, ‘Thank you for that clear line of sight. Now what should we do next? What are your ideas? Here are my ideas.’ It’s what I call a productive response to bad news, as opposed to a natural, in many ways normal, response to bad news.”

Source : GCMA

Decision Making – Quantitative Intuitive

Decision Making – Quantitative Intuitive

How managers can develop the ability and confidence to ask the right questions, spot patterns, and process that information in parallel with an understanding of the wider business situation.

At the heart of good decision making in today’s fast and complex environment is the ability to see how things fit together—and perhaps more crucially, spot when things do not have a good or logical fit—quickly and effectively, and leverage these connections to derive insights and make prompt data-driven decisions.

Together with my colleagues, Chris Frank, a senior executive at American Express, and Paul Magnone, at Google’s cloud platform, (see also Chris and Paul’s book, Drinking from the Firehose) we have noticed that managers and executives are often fearful of relying on quantitative data in making business decisions. There seems to be a misconception that in order to be able to effectively make data-driven decisions, you have to be a ‘quant’ or a ‘math wiz’. We believe that this misconception generates a lot of unnecessary stress and, more importantly, a lot of good business decisions are not being taken.

What sets apart better leaders is the ability to see the same data as others (and everyone sees lots of similar data these days) but make some different conclusions and derive different insights from it. The key to doing so is to learn to quickly and effectively synthesize, rather than merely summarize, the information presented. We believe and show that this does not require you to be able to solve logarithms or square roots in your head, but rather develop the ability and confidence to ask the right questions, spot patterns, and process that information in parallel with your understanding of the wider business situation.

To help managers build these skills, we have developed a concept, a framework, and a set of tools which we term Quantitative IntuitionTM. Formally, we define this as the ability to make decisions with incomplete information via precision questioning and business acumen driven by pattern recognition. This requires a parallel view of the issues that matter rather than just a logical sequence of thoughts to see the situation as a whole.

Asking the Right Questions

One of the key elements to acquiring this acumen lies in ‘precision questioning’. This is the element that we see as being least prevalent in data analysis and where the real work needs to be sweated to achieve improved performance. In today’s world, the smartest person in the room is no longer the person who has the answers, but the one who asks the right questions to get the desired outcomes. With data drowning us on all sides, the usual “Can we look at the data and see what it tells us?” is likely to lead to a long journey with little results and insights.

We offer some techniques to approach data differently, beginning with IWIK, a method from Paul and Chris’s book, which stands for what is it that “I wish I knew.” We found that starting a group meeting around data-driven decision making with this deceptively simple question is extremely effective in quickly directing the data-driven discussion on the important issues and honing in on the fundamental issue that needs to be answered. It also has the benefit of often unearthing the data required as having already been acquired and being used elsewhere, when group members say “hey, we have that already, we got it when we…”.

Driving Backwards to Move Forward

A second approach is backward data-driven decision making, where you start the data-driven journey with the decision you would be making and then extrapolate backwards to see what analysis and data you would have needed to be able to make the decision. This approach requires the manager to put in a lot of thought and energy at the outset of the data-driven process to determine what the proposed decision and analyses might be. Executives are often reluctant to spend so much time early on in the process, thinking about the problem, decision and analyses to be done, but it is a well spent effort as it almost guarantees that the data-driven process will result in actionable outcomes.

In order for Quantitative Intuition to become second nature—that is, intuitive—a series of learning steps need to be climbed. Initially, we do not know what we do not know, we are ‘unconsciously incompetent. We then become aware of what we do not know and become ‘consciously incompetent’. We can then learn it, so we become ‘consciously competent’. And finally, we use it so often that we cease to be aware of using it consciously, becoming ‘unconsciously competent’. This is the stage of intuition that we strive for in our Quantitative Intuition program.

This is one of a series of articles published in a new eBook from Columbia Business School.

Trends to look out for in 2019

Trends to look out for in 2019

What will the year ahead bring for you and your business?

What developments will we see in the business landscape over the next 12 months? We asked some of our faculty to look ahead and, well, there’s good news and bad… On the plus side: exciting new opportunities to do things differently and get results. Better stop reading now, though, if you’re hoping for quick fixes.

1. Companies will own less
Tammy Erickson, Adjunct Professor of Organisational Behaviour

2019 will be the year in which we’ll begin to see companies step up to the “own less” reality: identifying resources (functions, facilities, people) it makes sense to “own” and embracing a variety of flexible arrangements for others (rent, contract, share).

Notice the rapid growth of companies that rent ever-changing wardrobes, allowing customers to have exactly the clothing they need for this week’s activities. Or the number of teens and twenty somethings who are not learning to drive, content to rely on just-as-needed transport options. Watch how young people arrange to meet – not through pre-established commitments, but rather through real-time coordination, based on immediate need and convenient availability.

These behaviours make sense. Economists, beginning with Ronald Coase in the 1930s, predicted that as communication costs fell, we would own less. Today it’s easy – and virtually free – to get what you want, when and where you need it.

Smart companies will continue to own or employ full-time certain categories of resources: those that are extremely scarce, to ensure availability; those that are highly strategic, to prevent availability to others. I would also argue in favour of holding tight to the humans who perform roles that will be least likely to be taken on by technology: those who form relationships and make tacit, values-based judgements. 

But there are other categories of resources, both physical and human, that companies should begin to access in new and creative ways, leveraging today’s technology: fungible resources – particularly if demand fluctuates and if qualifications are easy to verify and, most importantly, resources for which future demand is difficult to predict and where greater optionality would have high value. 

Just as the 1980s was the decade of process redesign as businesses leveraged the power of computers, the 2020s will be the decade of enterprise or business model reconstruction, leveraging the power of digital and related technologies. Smart companies will get a head start in 2019. 

2. Performance management will give way to performance leadership
Dan Cable, Professor of Organisational Behaviour

In 2019, leaders will start thinking more about performance leadership systems instead of performance management systems.

The goal of management is to relieve uncertainty by making processes more predictable and efficient. Performance management systems focus on hitting quarterly targets and following known processes, so that promises and regulations are met. Achieving these results is really good, until you end up efficiently producing what customers don’t want any more. Think Kodak, Blackberry, Nokia, Sears, Borders. The goal of a leader is to help an organisation stay effective and competitive. Leaders need to balance something that doesn’t want to be balanced. Efficiently meeting promises to customers and regulators makes it hard to experiment and learn. But short-term results are in vain if they can’t help keep the organisation relevant to the future. As one leader told me: “We need to be able to work on the plane while it is flying.” 

There are two good reasons why leaders will become increasingly wary of performance management systems in 2019. First, they are usually focused on the past, not the future. Focusing on high-quality cellphone reception might work until competitors offer internet access and music capabilities on cellphones. Aiming for more and more efficient performance today is a great way to go out of business in five years. Second, measuring results means that you are not rewarding learning. When you focus on outcomes and achievement, what you lose is experimenting with new approaches. If we want people to innovate, stop rewarding good results based on bad processes and start rewarding experimentation even if the results are bad.

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“In 2019, organisations will continue to experience greater complexity and ambiguity, fuelled by the growth of nationalism, divisive politics and reverse globalisation.”

Performance leadership is when each employee understands and feels responsible for working on the airplane while flying it. Helping to meet current promises while helping the organisation adapt and learn about the future. Performance leadership encourages teams to work together to solve problems and stay market competitive, rather than individual employees trying to look good and compete with each other. Performance leadership is when an employee understands that her job is to find ways to do her job even better, and brings her unique talents, passions and interests to the work. 

3. AI will remain top-of-mind
Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Deputy Dean 

Every year brings another tech trend. 2016 was all about big data, 2017 was blockchain, and 2018 was the year AI hit the mainstream management press. 

So what comes after AI? My hunch is it will continue to stay top-of-mind among businesspeople for another few years yet. But rather than focusing on the potential benefits of artificial intelligence, we will see a complementary narrative take shape about the unique qualities of human intelligence. 

John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdene, authors of the 1982 guide Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives, said: “Whenever a new technology is introduced into society, there must be a counterbalancing human response… We must learn to balance the material wonders of technology with the spiritual demands of our human nature.” 

The AI debate is already turning to these questions. What is left for humans to do when the computers take on more of our traditional jobs? What is the point of having firms for coordinating activities when technology can make coordination happen seamlessly and instantaneously? And what are the risks we create – for society – when we use algorithms rather than human judgment to make business decisions? These are important questions, but we have incomplete answers to them. Expect the debate in these areas to intensify in the next year or two. 

4. Data science will be democratised 
Nicos Savva, Associate Professor of Management Science and Operations 

Few pundits would disagree that data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence offer a paradigm shift from reactive, approximate and slow decision making to proactive, precise, and fast decisions. With few exceptions, these tools have been the prerogative of technology firms born in the digital era (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber) or incumbents with substantial scale (Walmart, P&G, Marriott). 2019 is going to be the year where data science will revolutionise non digital SMEs (manufacturers, hospitals, traditional media and more).

“This coming year is likely to be full of uncertainty – due to events ranging from Brexit to the US-China trade tensions to EU reforms.”

Three factors are converging to make this happen. First, cloud computing is delivering substantial amounts of computational power to anyone that needs it — power that was only available at a huge upfront cost is now available at a small variable cost. Second, new tools have made it easier to collect, analyse and use data — you no longer need a PhD in data science to be able to meet the data science needs of an SME. Third, human capital is becoming more sophisticated. The emergence of data science masters and data-science-focused MBA programmes is producing analysts and managers who have the skill sets and the imagination to make data science work at smaller scale. 

What are the implications of the new wave of data science? In the short term, more customer choice, better products/service customisation and lower costs. In the longer term, new and highly successful business models that would not have been possible without data science (e.g. AI-driven medical consultations or self-driving fleets of taxis). But as more decisions are delegated to automated data-driven systems, we need to worry about social implications — white-collar employment, data security and privacy, and algorithmic bias/discrimination will come to the forefront of public debate, as they should. With every new technology, there will be risks, and data science is no different. 

5. Political and economic uncertainty will continue
Linda Yueh, Adjunct Professor of Economics

This coming year is likely to be full of uncertainty – due to events ranging from Brexit to the US-China trade tensions to EU reforms. And it’s coming at a vulnerable stage in the business cycle where half of US Chief Financial Officers are expecting a recession in 2019 and over 80% of CFOs expect it by 2020. Starting in the UK, there is considerable uncertainty about whether Parliament will pass the Prime Minister’s Brexit withdrawal agreement, now scheduled for a vote during the week of January 14th. 

The EU has indicated that they would be open to extending the departure date by three months, but that hasn’t precluded the Cabinet from stepping up “no deal” preparations to ensure the UK can trade on WTO terms at the end of the first quarter of 2019. 

As if that wasn’t enough uncertainty, the first quarter of the year will also see the US and China aim to agree a trade deal or see 25% tariffs on all Chinese imports into the US and likely retaliation by China. The stakes are high. Can the US and China negotiate a trade agreement in three months? In one sense, a deal can be done fairly quickly if China opens up its market, particularly for services, as that should increase American exports since the US is the world’s largest exporter of services. 

And there is uncertainty in the EU as well. Italy seems to have softened its stance around its budget deficit while France looks to be running afoul of EU budget rules after granting concessions to defuse the “yellow vest” protests. In addition, President Macron’s proposed EU reforms to create a central fiscal authority have stalled. So, where EU reforms are headed looks uncertain. 

All of this uncertainty is coming at a time when the business cycle looks to have passed its peak. That’s the consensus for the US where economic growth likely peaked in the middle of 2018. And we tend to fall within the same business cycle. So, if the above uncertain geo-economic events affect the economy, it may worsen the cyclical slowdown. 

Therefore, brace for uncertainty in 2019. It’s likely to be a volatile start to the year. 

6. Complexity will throw up new opportunities
Richard Jolly, Adjunct Professor of Organisational Behaviour 

In 2019, organisations will continue to experience greater complexity and ambiguity, fuelled by the growth of nationalism, divisive politics and reverse globalisation. My current work with CEOs shows that they are less clear about what to do than ever before. We will continue to see firms with a track record of success struggling if they are unable to evolve. 

Themes such as agility, the emergence of millennials into managerial positions and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain will make traditional command-and-control styles of management increasingly problematic. But, while things will get more challenging, the opportunities are going to be greater – whilst there will be losers, there will be winners. 

So what will differentiate these winners? Less and less is it having the right strategy. Many organisations that fail have the right strategy – they just can’t get it to happen. The role of leaders is increasingly to create an empowering context. 

When things are so complicated, one of the toughest challenges is building and retaining confidence. Some organisations bounce between over- and under-confidence. The great ones, whether mature or early stage, are able to retain the middle ground of the confidence spectrum. 

What does this middle ground look like? Confident organisations have a well-articulated, compelling purpose; senior managers who role-model the behaviours they want from others; effective communication about what specific behaviours are needed to achieve the firm’s ambitions; a culture of psychological safety where people support each other, balanced with healthy challenge and feedback. They have a resilient attitude where “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”; people spend their time on their key priorities, rather than being lost in emails and inefficient meetings; and an environment where everyone feels that they can contribute.

Source : London Business School

Transformation-The Head, Heart, and Hands

Transformation-The Head, Heart, and Hands

It is rare these days, as digital transformation sweeps the business landscape, to meet a business leader who hasn’t either recently led or been part of a transformation. Once a one-off event in response to an urgent need—a dire competitive threat, sagging performance, an overdue process overhaul, or a post-merger integration—transformation is now the new normal. In fact, it has become so commonplace that we have dubbed this the era of “always-on” transformation. 

Yet from experience we know that transformation continues to be very difficult, and the evidence shows that it often fails or falls short of expectations. Moreover, it can exact an enormous toll on leaders and employees, who are constantly being asked to step up, reach further, move faster, and adapt to change, with no end in sight. For leaders and employees alike, it’s less a marathon and more a triathlon; no sooner does one leg finish than another is under way, giving participants no chance to catch their breath before giving their all once again. Still, many organizations overcome the odds; some even achieve lasting results. How do these companies succeed where others fail?

A REIMAGINED APPROACH TO TRANSFORMATION

While there is no one-size-fits-all method, our extensive client work, along with our study of more than 100 companies that have undergone transformations (three or more for 85% of them), points to an approach that combines three interconnected elements. It involves thinking expansively and creatively about the future that the organization aspires to and focusing on the right strategic priorities to get there. It addresses the unrelenting, ever-shifting, ever-growing demands on employees by elevating the importance of actions that will inspire and empower people at all levels of the organization. And at a time of rapid change and disruption, it calls for more than just applying the appropriate means and tools to execute; it calls for companies to innovate while they execute—and do both with agility.

“Transformation in the new digital era requires a holistic, human-centric approach.”

In other words, transformation in the new digital era requires a holistic, human-centric approach, one we call the Head, Heart, and Hands of Transformation. The heart has received the least consideration, but it is attention to all three elements that enables organizations to succeed today and thrive tomorrow.

THREE CHALLENGES IN THE ALWAYS-ON ERA

Transformation today takes place from a variety of starting positions. Some organizations need to move quickly to improve the bottom line. Others enjoy respectable performance but lack a clear path to enduring success. Many companies are simply in need of rejuvenation, ready to imagine a new destiny and perhaps even to increase their contribution to society.

Transforming not merely to survive but to thrive entails addressing three broad challenges, crystallized in these questions:

  • How do we create our vision for the future and identify the priorities to get there? Many companies face an even bigger challenge than overcoming short-term performance pressures: How to reconcile multiple strategic options to envision a different future amid shifting customer needs, evolving technologies, and increasing competition. 
  • How do we inspire and empower people? The relentless pace of always-on transformation can demoralize even the most engaged employees. Sustaining it while offering employees meaningful opportunity and fulfillment—intrinsic rewards that millennials and “digital natives” seek—adds substantial complexity to the challenge.
  • How do we execute amid constant change? Changing the business once meant executing from a playbook of primarily short-term, discrete actions. But transforming to thrive in the future often requires disrupting existing business models and value chains to solve customer needs—and doing so at digital speed. Today, when changing the business means simultaneously executing and innovating with agility, a conventional approach to execution is no longer enough.

Taken together, these three challenges can seem overwhelming. But they need not be.

Consider Microsoft. In February 2014, when Satya Nadella took the helm, the company was by no means broken, yet there were strong headwinds: Windows’ market share had declined, Microsoft had missed the mobile wave, and competitors—and customers—were moving aggressively to the cloud. The company’s inhospitable culture was depicted in a now-famous meme showing managers in different corners of the organization chart shooting guns at one another.

Since then, Microsoft’s performance hasn’t just improved; it has flourished. Revenues (particularly cloud-based revenues) have soared, the company’s stock price has more than tripled, market capitalization is approaching $1 trillion, and annualized TSR, at 26.5%, is twice that of the S&P 500. Perhaps most important, the company now boasts a visibly new culture of cooperation and a renewed commitment to innovation.

“Microsoft’s wholesale transformation has been the result not of a single move but of many changes orchestrated in parallel”

Microsoft’s wholesale transformation has been the result not of a single move but of many changes orchestrated in parallel that have touched every part of the organization. Nadella honed a mobile-first, cloud-first vision, aligning leaders around it and shifting resources toward the relevant businesses to accelerate innovation. In other words, he addressed the head of transformation. He articulated a new purpose—“to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more”—and fostered a new culture and leadership model, thus tending to the heart of transformation. He also unleashed new ways of working that have not only enabled execution but also have spurred innovation and agility; that is, he equipped the hands of transformation.

Microsoft’s transformation has reinvigorated a maturing company, positioning it to define and embrace its future with the strength and agility needed to thrive in a fast-changing, tumultuous business landscape.

THE POWER OF HEAD, HEART, AND HANDS

What actions constitute this fresh take on transformation? And what sets it apart from more traditional approaches?

  • The Head: Envision the future and focus on the big rocks. In the digital era, constant change makes it harder to commit to a view of the future; yet providing direction to the organization remains essential. That means companies and their leaders must draw on their strategic thinking, their imagination, their knowledge of customer needs and desires, and their pool of expertise, experience, and wisdom to forge an aspirational vision of a digitally enabled, growth-oriented future. They set priorities, focusing on the “big rocks” that will deliver results and create enduring value.1 They secure the alignment and commitment of the leadership team. And they establish and communicate a compelling case for change, internally and externally. In the past, these actions might have been one-and-done moves, distinct from the daily rhythms of business. But today, because the environment is constantly shifting and these strategic actions generally affect the whole enterprise, they must be revisited and updated on an ongoing basis (ideally, annually) and be integrated into the operating model of the organization.
  • The Heart: Inspire and empower your people. When transformations were viewed as one-off, short-term programs, inspiring and empowering people wasn’t seen as being essential to them; in fact, people were often treated as a means to an end or, worse, as collateral damage. But successful transformation today depends on people who are engaged and motivated to go above and beyond. Organizations can create this condition through a set of heart “practices.” What does this mean? Leaders invest time and energy in articulating, activating, and embedding the organization’s purpose. Companies create an empowering culture, shaped by leaders, that allows people to do their best work. They also demonstrate care for those whose lives are disrupted by the change—not only departing employees but those who remain to carry out the new vision. Finally, senior managers exercise a more holistic form of leadership: they clarify and navigate, they include and empower, and they delegate and enable their people and teams.
  • The Hands: Execute and innovate with agility. Executing a prescribed set of actions used to be enough to generate short-term bottom-line improvements. In this new era, when the future is unclear and the present is constantly changing, organizations need to innovate as they execute, and do both with agility. Consider this: Rather than delegate responsibility for execution to a transformation program owner (who occasionally updates leaders), companies give joint ownership of the ongoing transformation agenda to senior leaders. They ensure disciplined execution by equipping teams with the resources they need to make sound, prompt decisions. Companies also apply innovative methods and digital tools, and institute agile ways of working, to accelerate output, remove impediments, and enable end-to-end focus on the customer. Whereas building organizational capabilities was often an afterthought, today companies build capabilities while carrying out the transformation.

The head, heart, and hands approach to transformation is most powerful when each element is fully deployed. For this reason, the three elements should not be viewed as sequential actions but as three vital sets of activities that should happen in parallel—a holistic system.

Evidence of the impact of this approach is striking. In our study, which included in-depth interviews of leaders involved in these efforts, we asked whether the companies had addressed the actions consistent with the three elements. We then correlated the response with their subsequent performance. Ninety-six percent of the companies that fully engaged the three elements achieved sustained performance improvement, a rate nearly three times that of companies that did not engage the elements. (See Exhibit 1.)

When we asked survey respondents about the relative attention given to each of the three elements during transformation, the head consistently got the highest rating, followed by the hands. The heart came last. (See Exhibit 2.)

It’s thus only fitting that the heart—as the metaphorical center and source of inspiration and power—is at the center of this holistic approach.

THE HEART OF TRANSFORMATION: INSPIRE AND EMPOWER YOUR PEOPLE

People—individuals and teams—are the lifeblood of successful transformation. Transformation requires their effort, engagement, alignment, and willingness to go the extra mile. But in practice, the importance of people in transformation is often neglected; people often end up being treated as expedient or even dispensable. In the always-on era, the consequences of this neglect can be great, as people grow exhausted from keeping up with the latest technologies and adapting to relentless change.

Successful transformation takes heart. The heart serves as an apt metaphor, capturing the essence of the vital, life-giving source of power that people need to effect change.

So how can organizations develop a strong, healthy heart to inspire and empower people? In the context of transformation, we see four imperatives. Each of them, like the atria and ventricles of the heart, works in concert to perform the heart’s complete job: empowering and enabling people to give life to the transformation. (See “Healthy Heart, Strong Performance.”)

HEALTHY HEART, STRONG PERFORMANCE

Activate and Embed Purpose

Increasingly, employees seek much more than a paycheck or tangible rewards; they want meaning, connection, and joy. They want to contribute, develop, and achieve. Organizations with purpose tap into these needs, producing a virtuous circle of benefits.

“In the always-on era, purpose is more important than ever.”

Purpose is an organization’s “why”—its existential reason for being. In the always-on era, it is more important than ever; it fuels transformation by fostering an emotional connection that inspires greater commitment and the willingness to go the extra mile. Purpose illuminates a direction as it links various transformation efforts in a way that is logical and accessible to everyone. But it can do so only when the organization translates it effectively into action.

Create an Empowering Culture

Culture is the lifeblood of the organization. It comprises a clear articulation of the values and behaviors that define how things get done in an organization. Activated by leaders, culture is reinforced by the organizational environment, or context, through such levers as customer service rituals, performance management systems, and informal interactions. A healthy culture serves as a tacit code of conduct that steers individuals to make choices that advance the organization’s goals and strategy. In the digital era, when self-direction and team autonomy are emphasized, a strong culture is particularly important.

Demonstrate Care

Layoffs, redeployments, and reskilling are inevitable today. Even healthy companies will likely have to restructure their workforce to add talent—in particular, people with digital skills and experience that align more closely with the business’s future needs. Such workforce turbulence can be traumatic not only for those who are laid off but also for those who remain. If left unattended, it can undermine morale and progress. At the very least, transformation can dampen engagement and disrupt employee cohesion, and it almost always puts extra demands on people.

For all these reasons, leaders must demonstrate care, compassion, and empathy—and not just through their words. For example, it is critical that leaders continue to solicit the input of employees who remain (say, through pulse checks or broader two-way communications) and actively, visibly address their concerns. To help employees who are leaving, companies can offer a battery of program options beyond the standard outplacement services, such as coaches to help individuals create a personal roadmap, job-market information sessions, resources for financial advice, and even guidance on entrepreneurship.

Lead with the Head, Heart, and Hands

Nothing is more important to the success of transformation than leaders. While they play many roles, leaders embody the heart of transformation.

Leaders clarify and navigate the way forward. Beyond envisioning the future and revisiting strategic priorities regularly, leaders provide constant guidance to their reports and unit heads and ensure that priorities remain linked to purpose. They are action oriented; they set clear accountabilities; and they work tirelessly to communicate a compelling case for change internally and externally.         

Leaders are inspiring, empowering, and inclusive. Leaders instill confidence and courage, and motivate and inspire people to perform. They strengthen and encourage teams and support cross-organization collaboration. They demonstrate care and empathy, actively and candidly communicate with their people, and exercise inclusiveness.

Leaders delegate and enable agile teams. Leaders delegate responsibilities to autonomous agile teams, remove obstacles, and ensure all the necessary cross-functional resources are in place. They also support capabilities building, both human and digital.

EMBRACING THE HEAD, HEART, AND HANDS OF TRANSFORMATION

In the digital era, transformation has become the default state for most organizations. But always-on transformation needn’t be debilitating, exhausting, or demoralizing. We owe it to ourselves, our organizations, and society itself to boldly transform the approach we take to transformation.

Leaders need to move beyond short-term fixes to envision a compelling future, and focus on the big rocks required to get there. They need to stop treating people as a means to an end or, worse, as collateral damage, and instead inspire and empower them. They need to change how work gets done, moving from the expedient and prescribed set of actions to an approach that enables execution and innovation to occur simultaneously, with agility.

The head, heart, and hands of transformation is not a panacea, but it is a holistic and human-centric approach that is proven to enable organizations that truly embrace it to succeed today and thrive tomorrow.

Source : BCG.com

Using advance Tech for predictive analytics in employee retention

Using advance Tech for predictive analytics in employee retention

This technique can help managers reduce attrition costs.

The future of human resources is changing. Like the rest of the business world, chief human resource officers (CHROs) and their teams are beginning to find that they need to focus on building a robust analytics capability to best prepare for the data-driven world.

“CHROs have said that they feel [pressured] as the only ones not bringing data to the table. The business is expecting HR to have similar numbers to marketing, though maybe not finance or operations,” observed Andrew Marritt, CEO of OrganizationView, a people analytics practice based in St Moritz, Switzerland. According to Marritt, the data-centric modern HR leader needs to know not only what has happened, but what is likely to happen.

A key HR concern for businesses is employee retention. There are significant financial and intangible costs associated with losing loyal and high-performing employees. Investments need to be made to find, hire, and train their replacements. There could also be a negative impact on the stakeholders they worked with regularly such as suppliers, colleagues, and customers. Some companies are starting to look to predictive analytics to increase their ability to mitigate the risk of employee turnover and increase retention.

Investment in building a people analytics capability need not be big at first, and businesses can benefit greatly from it. “Our research shows that the financial costs associated with attrition can range anywhere between 13% and 23% of annual compensation depending on the function/level of the employees under the scope of the study. In our experience, a focused attrition analytics predictive model can help lower this risk by 5% to 8% annually,” said Neeraj Tandon, director for workforce analytics and planning, Asia-Pacific, at Willis Towers Watson, in Gurgaon, India.

WHAT’S NEW

Traditional HR analytics are descriptive in nature and examine employee data across different dimensions such as department and demographics to identify past patterns within metrics like turnover and retention. Conclusions are then used to formulate talent policies. Descriptive analytics, however, cannot predict future outcomes at an individual employee level.

Predictive analytics does this by going a step further and using the evidence from descriptive analytics as inputs for advanced techniques like statistical modelling and machine learning. These methodologies provide forward-looking measures such as flight risk, which quantifies the likelihood of an employee’s leaving the organisation within a certain period of time.

Predictive analytics also identifies hidden connections between key factors contributing to employee turnover. The main predictor variables normally studied include pay, promotion, performance reviews, time spent at work, commute distance, and relationship with a manager. (See the chart, “Factors Contributing to Voluntary Turnover”, for a breakdown of key reasons for attrition at a sample organisation.) Organisations also use external data such as labour market indicators and the current economic scenario as causative variables while formulating hypotheses and building models for retention. HR teams and managers use the findings from the modelling to better design timely interventions to help retain employees.

Factors contributing to voluntary turnover

An ADP Research Institute white paper examined the factors leading to voluntary turnover at a sample company. The graphic below breaks down the reasons cited. By collecting and analysing the factors that contribute to turnover, companies can institute policies and procedures to address concerns.

In this example, management may want to focus its retention efforts on industry veterans who have not been with the company for very long or look at implementing more lenient telecommuting rules to ease attrition.

Source: ADP Research Institute white paper, Revelations From Workforce Turnover Study.

Deloitte estimates that about 8% of global businesses leverage predictive analytics for talent management, and the ones that do tend to be larger. According to Brian Kropp, group vice president at Gartner, organisations that develop this capability tend to be in sectors that are intellectual property dependent such as financial services, healthcare, and fast-moving consumer goods. Globally, businesses in all major economies are working towards acquiring this competence.

COST VERSUS BENEFITS

Organisations looking to develop competence in predictive analytics have several options. Consulting organisations offer expertise towards building this capability. For businesses looking to set up internal capabilities for smaller capital outlay, many choose to employ or train in-house data scientists who may turn to inexpensive software such as IBM SPSS or free open-source software known as R for their initial modelling.

External vendors that set up human capital management systems with predictive analytics capabilities are also available at different price points. However, experts warn that internal teams should make sure that the human capital management systems offered integrate with data systems within the organisation. The systems should not overpromise and underdeliver in terms of features and tools, and vendors should provide the guidance to use them insightfully.

DATA-BASED CHALLENGES

According to Bersin by Deloitte, an HR research organisation, setting up clean and accurate data streams is, and will remain, a challenge for people analytics. As the research indicates, most big organisations have five to seven systems of record for their human resources data. This means that information often used in predictive modelling is inaccurate or unavailable, a serious stumbling block.

“As statisticians, we do deploy multiple data treatments to improve the quality of data. However, often data on some important variable are incomplete, and as a result we ignore these variables. Some of these variables could be important to predict the outputs. Hence, it’s important that organisations continuously focus on data quality improvement,” Tandon said.

Companies should run specific data quality programs to make the data fit for modelling. These programs would be of greater effectiveness if they were directed at key variables that predict output variables such as attrition rather than across the entire dataset, he added.

BUILDING A GOOD MODEL

Besides clean, accurate data streams, a few further steps can be taken to ensure that predictive retention models are a robust tool for decision-making. For one, studying the workforce in clusters of employees with similar characteristics and reasons for leaving the organisation is essential for building models that lead to targeted and effective retention strategies, according to Tandon.

Model building also goes through multiple iterations to ensure it fits the data optimally, which includes choosing or eliminating causative variables scientifically, and testing the model on an existing dataset to gauge how accurately it predicts actual outcomes. With the acknowledgement that numbers do not tell the entire story, intuition is also factored into models. “There is a good reason people are intuitive; they have got experience,” explained Marritt on how this contributes to the model’s effectiveness.

However, a degree of inaccuracy is associated with predictive modelling, and this is where HR and managers play an important role. “Data should just be another voice at the table. Decisions have to be made by humans,” said Marritt, on how these tools can influence employees’ working lives. It is always better to roll up the data and use them at an aggregated level such as teams, rather than at an individual level, because the implications of making an incorrect decision are considerable, he added.

Last but not least, as with any new initiative, organisations must recognise that adequate coaching and oversight mechanisms should be in place to help users leverage the technique correctly and thoughtfully. According to Tandon, managers are being trained on the key objectives of developing attrition models and coached on how to use the information to prevent high-performing employees from leaving, without creating a bias against the identified individuals.

Central governing teams (often comprising business and HR team members) monitor and track interventions taken by line managers to reduce attrition risk for employees identified as a high flight risk. This also helps organisations bring some level of consistency in interventions to control attrition, Tandon added.

TARGETED APPROACHES

Once these checks and balances are in place, a data-driven approach that includes predictive analytics is seen to bring greater transparency and balance to decision-making. “There have been instances where decisions were made by those who were the most vocal. This will be harder in a world where data is needed to support decisions,” observed Marritt.

The key causative variables that emerge during modelling will also help organisations craft more effective retention strategies. If commute distance emerges as a major driver, for example, greater efforts can be directed towards options such as remote working. If a limited training budget is available, it can be used to provide inputs for those employee segments that have a high flight risk. While HR and managers have always designed these interventions, a forward-looking, rigorous technique enables them to direct time and money towards these efforts with greater precision and with greater confidence in the outcome.

Furthermore, finding unexpected patterns in the data can help design retention strategies that make strong business sense. Marritt’s team at OrganizationView, for instance, found that high work pressure was a key cause for attrition at a certain financial services organisation. However, it was more so for low to midlevel performers while top performers actually thrived under high pressure and were more likely to leave in its absence. Since high-performer attrition had a greater financial impact, the organisation focused on this rather than overall attrition.

THE NEAR HORIZON

Companies are experiencing a massive change in the data they have about customers, and the same change is coming to what they know about employees, according to Kropp. Organisations that figure this out and get there faster will retain a higher-quality workforce. It will be the single most successful differentiating factor on that front, and a must-have for businesses that cross a thousand employees, he added.

Over the last three years, Gartner has also seen a significant increase in the number of organisations that collect employee data in unconventional ways, such as social media activity, speed of keystrokes, mood recognition, email text and frequency, and wearable microphones. Organisations are attempting to understand employee behaviour and experience through these experiments, and some of them will be input into models, which will increasingly graduate from predicting flight risk and quality of hire, which are relatively easy to measure, to hard-to-define variables such as employee engagement and performance, Kropp said.

On the maturity front, while only a small percentage of organisations surveyed by Deloitte currently have the capability for people analytics, in a more recent survey 69% of businesses say they are integrating data to build a people analytics database. The analytics function will also grow into a multidisciplinary team that will solve business-critical problems to drive business results.

Source : FM UK

High demand for board positions for CFO’s

High demand for board positions for CFO’s

CFOs to participate on corporate boards is increasing.

Seventy-nine per cent of CFOs are experiencing increased demand for their expertise on corporate boards, according to an Ernst & Young survey of 800 global finance chiefs. CFO and Beyond: The Possibilities and Pathways Outside Finance communicated the results of the survey and a study of 347 companies worldwide with annual revenue over $5 billion.

Current or former CFOs make up 14% of board members of the companies studied, up from 8% in 2002. And 41% of audit committee chairs are current or former CFOs, up from 19% in 2002.

The desire on the part of CEOs to have finance professionals look beyond their functional silo to collaborate effectively on strategic decisions was revealed in the CGMA report Rebooting Business: Valuing the Human Dimension. Those same skills are sought by corporate boards, and CFOs are supplying them.

Jim Ladd, CPA, CGMA, senior vice president of finance and operations at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, estimated that he has served on about 18 boards during his career. His current board responsibilities include an audit committee role for a New York Stock Exchange-listed company, a lead independent director position with a privately owned company in Seattle, and participation on two not-for-profit boards.

He said finance executives can contribute a lot to boards.

“They’re generally sought out initially because of finance background and a knowledge of financial reporting and audit risks and that sort of thing,” Ladd said. “But CPAs have a broader background than that. And people discover that.”

Audit committee a good fit

Finance skills make CFOs ideal candidates for audit committee positions. In many jurisdictions, regulatory requirements demand that at least one audit committee member have financial expertise to keep abreast of evolving accounting standards, risks and regulations.

Public companies listed in the United States, for example, must disclose whether they have at least one financial expert independent of management on their audit committee. The United Kingdom’s Corporate Governance Code says a board should satisfy itself that at least one audit committee member has recent, relevant financial experience.

This can be a benefit and a frustration to CFOs. Eighty-one per cent of them say finance leaders are good choices for audit committee jobs because of their finance acumen. But CFOs want to make sure their skills in strategic development and other areas are recognised, too.

“Some of them can be a little insulted that the breadth of their experience as CFO is not necessarily recognised,” Gerard Dalbosco, an E&Y managing partner, said in the report.

Opportunity to branch out

Although CFOs already have busy jobs, about two-thirds of them reported that they have taken on, or would be willing to accept, more part-time, voluntary or non-executive roles. Twenty-seven per cent said they already have taken such a role, and 40% said they haven’t yet, but would be interested in doing so.

Scott Lampe, vice president and CFO of Hendrick Motorsports in North Carolina, serves on a few community and government boards and said he is willing to consider working on boards of companies that don’t have a lot of risk and are looking to grow organically. “I want to work with companies who share my philosophy about how a business should be run and what kind of contribution it can make in improving the communities is operates in,” Lampe said.

What do CFOs reap from serving on boards? Three-quarters of survey respondents said gaining general management or board level experience is a benefit. Other top benefits included gaining exposure to another company or industry (65%) and getting a different perspective on running an organisation (62%).

“You get to look beyond the purely financial and think more strategically about a different organisation,” Qatar Foundation CFO Faisal Al-Hajri said in the report. “You can also use these roles to play a broader role in society or the community.”

Serving on charitable and community service boards also gives CFOs an opportunity to give back to the community. Mick Armstrong, CPA, CGMA, recently agreed to serve as treasurer on the board of directors of the chamber of commerce in Meridian, Idaho, where he is employed as CFO of Micro 100 Tool Corp.

“We as a company are committed to the community and realise that just our business environment, the quality of life for our employees, all is wrapped up together,” Armstrong said. “So we choose to be involved in the community.”

Protection from liability

Ladd said a key question any potential board member should ask before considering a seat on a board is whether the organisation carries liability insurance for its directors and officers. He said risk exists even at not-for-profit organisations, so board members should make sure they are protected.

In addition, Ladd said, it is important to make sure you are working for an organisation that supports your involvement on an external board. And you need to have the time and energy to fulfil your board duties in addition to your regular job.

Armstrong, for example, said his duties as chamber of commerce treasurer are made easier by Micro 100’s recent hiring of an accounting manager with a public accounting background. As Armstrong moves toward more of an executive leadership role with his company, this distancing from Micro 100’s daily accounting activity also has helped him find more time – early in the morning, at lunchtime and on weekends – to devote to his board duties.

Ladd said he does a lot of his board work during evenings and weekends.

“I sometimes joke with my wife when I come home at night that I’m starting my second job,” Ladd said. “…But most of the meetings are during the day, so you do have to have an understanding employer. That puts some strain and requires extra time in your life. There is no doubt about that.”

Source :GCMA

Strategies to use analytics for competitive advantage

Strategies to use analytics for competitive advantage

Organisations are building momentum for the use of Big Data by integrating data analytics into their strategy in small projects that deliver substantial results, according a new report.

Almost all respondents – 96% – said that analytics will become more important to their organisations in the next three years, according to a Deloitte report based on a mix of 100 online surveys and 35 interviews conducted with senior executives at 35 companies in North America, the UK and Asia.

Although analytics already is an important resource for many companies, analytical technology remains immature and data under-utilised, according to the report. Getting buy-in for further projects is essential, so analytics leaders are starting small.

“Projects that demonstrate analytics’ ability to improve competitive positioning help these initiatives gain traction across the enterprise,” Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited’s Global Analytics Leader Tim Phillipps wrote in the report.

Companies can prepare themselves to use analytics for competitive advantage, according to the report, by using the following strategies:

  • Acquire the right talent now. Talent for analytics and Big Data is in high demand. Talent shortages may become more of a barrier to analytics implementation as more companies use data to drive more processes and decisions.
  • Tie analytics to decision-making. Better data and analysis don’t necessarily result in better decisions. Specific initiatives to improve decision cultures and processes, along with changing the understanding and behaviours of front-line workers, lead to better decisions, the report says.
  • Apply analytics to marketing and customers. Finance operations are the most frequent area of analytics investment, with implementation by 79% of respondents. Marketing and sales groups, at 55%, are the second-most frequent analytics users, and the report says the best financial returns from analytics often come from marketing and customer-oriented applications.
  • Coordinate and align analytics. There is little consistency among companies with regard to who oversees analytics initiatives. Business units or division heads (23%), no single executive (20%), CFOs (18%) and CIOs (15%) were most commonly cited. More co-ordination may be needed to realise the full benefits of data throughout the organisation.
  • Create a long-term strategy for analytics. While current analytical processes are being implemented, a multi-year plan for the growth of analytical capabilities – linked to strategy development – will help organisations better use data over time, the report says.

The problem is the solution

The problem is the solution

The four-step process for better problem solving

If you strip any project down to its essence, you’ll find there are two fundamental tasks. The first is defining the problem that you’re trying to solve, and the second is actually setting out to solve it.

It sounds pretty intuitive, but I think that first step usually receives short shrift. In my experience, people are so geared up to get in there, roll up their sleeves, and come up with ideas, that they forget to really set the stage and understand why a client even needs their help in the first place. What is their marketplace situation like? How is their business performing? What are they setting out to achieve, and what’s getting in their way?

Asking yourself “What solution should I recommend?” is the worst first step. Before you can answer that question, you need to do four things.

1. DEFINING THE PROBLEM

All effective problem solving starts with effective problem defining. Too often, people jump right to solving without knowing exactly what they are solving. The big challenge here is figuring out how to separate the symptom from the disease. Many of us address the symptom only to find the solution to be a temporary fix.

A great way to uncover the root cause of any problem is to go through the “Five Whys” exercise. “Five Whys” is a technique that was developed by Toyota to identify manufacturing issues and solve them in the most effective and efficient way possible. The way you start is to articulate the problem you’re facing. In terms of corporate strategy, that’s typically a surface level issue like losing market share or declining sales. With the “Five Whys” technique, the goal is to ask “why” five times to help you dig deeper and deeper to uncover the root cause of the problem.

For instance, say you’re working with a local, downtown restaurant that has seen revenue decline. Ask yourself, “Why is revenue declining?” The answer might be that the average ticket is lower than it used to be. Why is that? Maybe because fewer tickets include an alcoholic beverage? Ask yourself why that is. Maybe it’s because traffic on Friday and Saturday nights is down, which is bringing overall alcohol sales down. Why is traffic down on Fridays and Saturdays? Perhaps it’s because the performing arts center around the corner recently closed down.

By going through the “Five Whys” exercise, you’re able to better define the problem. Rather than a food problem or a bar problem, what you might really need to fix is the entertainment problem.

2. REFRAMING THE PROBLEM

The next step is to create a few different reframes of the problem. Each reframe of the problem statement could lead to a number of potential solutions. The way we do this is by creating “How might we…” statements.

Going back to the restaurant example, a few reframes of the problem statement might be:

How might we get more people to add alcohol to weekday tickets (to counterbalance the dip in weekend sales)?

How might we get more people to spend a Saturday night downtown?

How might we get more happy hour visits from downtown professionals before they leave downtown for the weekend?

Sharp and varied reframe statements can help unlock some new, surprising solutions.

3. COMING UP WITH SOLUTIONS

These reframed problem statements are great fodder for a brainstorming process. Actually, in many situations we prefer brainwriting as opposed to brainstorming. Brainwriting is where a group of individuals is tasked with a problem to solve and each individual is required to think and ideate on their own.

You can do these brainwriting sessions in person with a group of people, or do them remotely and over the course of a few days. Simply asking team members to come up with three ideas for each “How might we…” statement can give you dozens of potential solutions to consider.

Remember, when it comes to new ideas, quantity is quality. The more ideas you generate, the more likely you are to have a few gems in the bunch.

4. EVALUATING OPTIONS

You can’t solve every problem or implement every solution. Resources and time are limited. To narrow in on the best opportunities, evaluate and score each potential solution for 1.) ease of implementation and 2.) its potential size of impact if implemented. This scoring can be done as a group or be the responsibility of a few key decision makers.

Sometimes it’s helpful to even map these out on a two-by-two matrix, with the ideas that are easiest and most impactful populating the top right quadrant.

Getting Bruno Mars to play a few sets at our restaurant every other Saturday might be impactful, but not all that easy to pull off. And a standing karaoke night might be easy to implement but perhaps not all that impactful. The goal is to identify the ideas that check both boxes, and then assign the appropriate resources to them.

Keep in mind, there isn’t a framework or methodology in the world that will get you the results you’re looking for if you’re solving for the wrong problem. Spend as much time (if not more) diagnosing the problem as solving it, and you’re well on your way to generating truly valuable solutions for your clients.

Source : GCMA

How visionary CFOs approach tech investment

How visionary CFOs approach tech investment

Customer experience

Digital transformation is on the minds of CFOs, who expect to invest more in advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) that can transform their businesses by improving customer experience.

That’s according to a recent Grant Thornton report, which shows that 69% of CFOs and senior finance executives plan to increase investment in technologies that quicken business change. CFOs themselves will need to have more technical skills, and they are divided in how to improve their overall workforce’s financial and technical expertise.

“It’s really a question of who’s more visionary as a CFO in moving forward with their products and services and reaching their customers,” said Srikant Sastry, Grant Thornton’s national managing principal for advisory services.

IMPROVEMENT TIED TO DIGITAL INITIATIVES

Companies that have figured out a way to reach customers more effectively through digital advances are reaping benefits. In one notable increase, Costco saw its second-quarter 2018 e-commerce sales grow about 29% year-over-year, to $1.5 billion, CFO Richard Galanti told analysts and reporters on a recent earnings call.

Additionally, firms that embraced digital transformation averaged a 55% increase in gross margins over a three-year period, according to a 2016 Harvard Business School study. Companies that were slow to adapt generated lower margin growth on average (37%) during the same period.

Meanwhile, International Data Corporation estimates that, by 2019, enterprises will spend $1.7 trillion on digital transformation — a 42% increase compared with 2017.

A year ago, Sastry said CFOs likened strategising on digital transformation to gazing into a crystal ball. Now, he says they are trying to gain a clearer picture of what is inside the sphere.

Accordingly, CFOs are not necessarily seeking digital transformation to improve efficiencies in their IT systems. The goals now are to enhance the customer experience, grow the business, and outperform the competition, according to the Grant Thornton report.

CHANGING THE VIEW OF ANALYTICS

CFOs have recognised that they were not thinking enough about analytics. Consequently, 24% of respondents said their finance team is currently adopting advanced analytics, another 24% will do likewise over the next year, and an additional 25% plan to adopt advanced analytics within two years. But CFOs will have to adapt, too.

CFOs have traditionally been focused on operational performance, cost reduction, and business management, but now they want to drive strategy and clear a path to digital transformation by leveraging information and technology, Sastry said.

“They have to make sure that they have the right skillset and innovation to leverage advanced analytics,” he said. “So the crystal ball is still there, but I think they’re trying to clarify the fog in the ball.”

Forty-one per cent of respondents do not believe they have good financial metrics that show the return on IT investments. And only 12% strongly agree that they possess an effective system to measure financial performance tied to newly implemented technology.

The report points out tension between companies’ current need to invest in maintenance and system updates and their desire to allocate funds to new automation technologies, such as AI. Investment in AI is projected to increase significantly: Beyond the 7% who say they have already adopted AI, an additional 47% expect to adopt it over the course of five years. A similar number of CFO respondents expect implementation of innovations such as distributed-ledger technology (also known as blockchain), machine learning, robotic-process automation, and optical-character recognition within five years.

“Ostensibly, AI will help improve quality, improve accuracy, and streamline the number of people required to perform tasks,” Sastry said. “It’ll change the face of business, including financial management.”

The top IT challenges in the survey are:

  • Systems complexity, including enterprise-wide systems integration;
  • Upkeep of legacy systems; and
  • IT talent.

Regarding the talent challenge, most executives — 52% — would prefer to retrain existing staff. Twenty per cent want to recruit new, technically skilled employees, and 17% aim to outsource tech hiring.

In addition to being aware of AI concepts, Sastry said, CFOs will need to know how AI systems work and how they can improve the business through a better customer experience.

“Those skillsets have, historically, resided in the technology space,” he said. “They’ve resided in the IT shop and the CIO [chief information officer] function. So CFOs need to really embrace the technology portions of their business, or the CIOs.”

Source : FM

How To Predict Which Of Your Employees Are About To Quit

How To Predict Which Of Your Employees Are About To Quit

You’ve got more data on how your team members are behaving, thinking, and feeling than you probably realize. Here’s how (and why) to tap into it.

How To Predict Which Of Your Employees Are About To Quit

“People analytics” may sound daunting, expensive, and difficult—something the ordinary manager can’t possibly concern herself with even if she’d like to. But the field isn’t necessarily as high-tech as you might imagine.

There’s more untapped data, of some kind or another, floating around your workplace than you probably think. With a little extra effort to spot behavioral patterns, you may be able to get ahead of some of the more common issues, like employee attrition, that can hurt your workplace and your organization’s bottom line. Here’s how.

PHONING IT IN

Turnover tends to be high at call centers, where many people take jobs temporarily, then quit when once they’ve earned enough to return to school or cover a big expense. Lower attrition means higher performance, so managers are interested in predicting and reducing attrition.

My company helped one call center analyze some basic data that it was already collecting: the length and number of calls operators were taking, and how often those calls got escalated or resolved. At the end of each shift, employees received a “report card” reflecting those data points. Since the call center employees’ compensation was linked directly to that performance data, they were highly incentivized to earn good marks.

But a low overall score wasn’t necessarily a sign that an employee was performing poorly, getting paid less, and therefore planning to bounce. Analysts found two specific factors were much more predictive: increased time spent on calls, and fewer calls ending in resolutions. Those operators were just going through the motions.

So the call center’s managers sent supervisors to meet with each operator within a day of those two indicators popping up. Most, however, hadn’t yet reached a point where they were considering quitting. But they often didreveal job frustrations that were usually easy to address, a like a faulty headset or having to work an undesirable shift. Supervisors were empowered to fix most of these problems, and over the next few months, the call center’s attrition rate fell by half.

FEELINGS AND ACTIONS YOU’RE NOT PICKING UP ON

“Sounds great,” you might be thinking, “but I don’t run a call center.” Even so, you can probably start looking for small, early signs of dissatisfaction that are relatively easy to remedy once you spot them. Here are two:

1. Ask employees how they’re feeling–continuously. Measuring “perceptions” might seem impossible, but it’s not. To collect data on something like this, you can use pulse surveys, run focus groups, or take snap polls using common Slack integrations like Polly.

Some large, physical office spaces even go analog and install those sentiment buttons you might have seen in airports or hotels. They’re simple, inexpensive devices that ask a question like, “How was your day?” and provide red (bad), yellow (okay), and green (good) buttons for people to press quickly as they go about their day. Whatever method you use to gather sentiment data, aim for something easy and anonymous, and watch for trends, not absolute values.

2. Look for dips in hours worked or effort spent. A basic place to start is total login time, but unless your office requires workers to “punch in” or “out,” introducing software to monitor exactly who’s sitting in front of their computers when can feel like surveillance. So start with the data you’ve already got on hand but may not be analyzing fully: How much sick leave is being taken this quarter, compared with last quarter or with the same quarter the prior year? How much annual leave is being requested (regardless of what’s actually granted)?

These are usually good indicators of who may be on their way out. Sick days can be requested to attend interviews or to burn up unused leave balances—or maybe that person is just feeling burned out and needs to take some mental heath days to deal with on-the-job stress.

THE LINKEDIN TRICK

There’s a third method, too, that I’ve seen work wonders. A well-known tech firm that recently worked with my company was losing its precious engineers. Recruiters who spent a lot of time looking for coders on LinkedIn were already in the habit of noticing recently updated “Skills” sections, interpreting that as a sign an engineer might be interested in hearing about new opportunities. So it occurred to the tech company to apply this principle in reverse.

The managers realized that their own coders were probably doing the same thing–updating their LinkedIn profiles whenever they were ready to hear from other firms. So the company wrote a simple script to capture the LinkedIn update feed for the profiles of around 2,000 of its top-performing coders. That let managers to react quickly whenever one of those employees added new info. Similar to the call managers, supervisors then swooped in to discuss the career goals and professional-development opportunities with the coders who might be wavering.

As a result, turnover fell, and many of those engineers were moved to assignments or projects that suited their talents and interests much better.

USE YOUR DATA WISELY–AND FAST

Whatever patterns you decide to watch, make sure you’re gathering data for two weeks to two months, so you’ll have enough information to perform a reasonable analysis.

But once you do spot a certain trend, don’t wait to act. Start looking for the source of the dissatisfaction in the corner of the company where you’re picking up on it. Maybe a certain team just really needs flex schedules or better recognition, or they feel starved for information. Often the most effective remedies aren’t even monetary. Once you’ve determined a solution, measure its effectiveness to make sure it continues to produce the outcome you’re hoping for.

At the end of the day, most employees all want the same basic things. Done right, people analytics starts from that humane premise and doesn’t reduce people to numbers–it just helps companies understand why certain situations cause people to keep behaving in certain ways. Ideally, it’s good for everyone when there are fewer surprises, and there’s more happiness to go around.

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