Archives for 23 Jun,2015

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The Digital Shopper

Digital-Shopper-400x265How Digitalisation is Affecting Retailers

At the British Retail Consortium Retail Lecture with Sir Ian Cheshire, we heard that the world of retail has not really changed that much in decades – and the change that has happened has been relatively small and slow.

But now all of a sudden the pace of change and the size of the change happening is alarming.  And we have the digital revolution to thank for that.

Retail is no longer about sitting in a store and waiting for a customer to walk in, the point of sale has completely shifted.  And retailers are being challenged more and more to move at pace, just to keep up.

Sir Ian made recommendations on what retailers can be doing in response, and we add to that list here with some suggestions for how Talent, OD and HR can support the business.

What’s the context?

Consider that smartphone and tablet purchases have jumped 83% in just two years and that smartphone browsing on retail sites is growing five times as fast as laptop/desktop browsing – so there’s a clear prompt – make sure your sites are seamless, engaging and easy to use across all media.

Because what’s to stop a customer visiting your store to view a product, only to check online who the cheapest supplier is – probably whilst still in your store?  How are our staff and our sales processes going to adapt?

There is a wealth of online data out there, and about 90% of that data has only been generated in the past two years.  A lot of that data has been generated by the customer through Facebook posts, google searches, navigation through webpages, – there are two million google searches and 700,000 Facebook posts per minute.

The bad news is that with all that data, we don’t know where to start.  So far only 1% of all that data has been meaningfully analysed.

Jelly Bean Diversity

What we can say from that early analysis is that retail firms, their HR teams and their entire workforce will need to shift too – but how?  Retailers need to make sure every touch point with the customer is positive, informative and encouraging a purchase.

How can retailers respond?

Oracle research shows 80% of customers expect companies to adopt new technology to make their shopping experience easier and in line with their other everyday uses of their smartphones and tablets.  65% also expect stock transparency – so retailers need to have seamless systems talking to each other, showing customers how many items are available and where.

Andy Street of John Lewis Partnership has often been quoted with the line, “Operations and IT are the new competitive battleground” – as it is the online experience over coming years that is likely to drive higher competitive advantage than the in-store experience.  So the suggestion is that higher investment in these areas could pay dividend in our digital future.

What can Talent/OD/HR teams do to support this shift?

This move from focusing heavily on the retail estate to looking more at operations and IT is a massive shift from certainly our experience with our clients, and many others’ stories about focusing on people in stores.  The majority of people recruitment and development spend has been on getting the right people in store, doing the right things in the right way.

Totem Lollipops

Whilst that is still of course important, we now need to make sure that we have people in operations creating and delivering systems and processes that make everything smoother – for accurate stock management, ease of transition between someone buying online from a warehouse to in-store and connecting customer service between the two.

In IT we need people doing analysis on that big data – and these are jobs that didn’t exist when the people perhaps best qualified to do them were studying; the world is changing that rapidly.  So we need to attract and retain the best talent – which comes from investing in the development and engagement of those teams.

Sir Ian shared his views on people development, highlighting that developing in-store colleagues to handle technology and offer services to support products bought online, is much easier when the good service basics are there.  So whilst this has largely been about shifting a focus to IT and operations, the fact remains that if you don’t already have great customer service, then adding the use of a tablet, or product tracking through the store, is going to be 100 times tougher.  If the service basics are not there, you have a challenge to address.  Fast.

Thinking a little more long term, how do we invest in the IT department to retain talent and attract better talent in future.  And don’t forget, that many things we’ll be recruiting for in 5 years are skill sets that don’t currently exist, like the expertise to deliver Big Data analysis and responsive IT design as the internet of things develops.

HR professionals have always had the opportunity to support and challenge the business in what its people needs are and will be, to deliver a vision and the required results.  Now is the time for HR to be pushing a renewed focus on attracting and retaining talent in IT and operations, to prepare the business to keep up with the seismic shifts occurring.

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HR Jargon Buster

Let’s bust some Jargon!

We love our industry, we really do.  But sometimes it can get a touch difficult keeping up with all the acronyms and buzz words.  This is especially true for new comers to our industry.  We thought it’d be useful to highlight some of the more common phrases and share our understanding of them.

What follows is by no means a definitive list, and has caused plenty of heated debate in our own office about what these definitions should be.  So much debate that this post should really be listed under research.

But we have come to some consensus on 9 of our industry’s most beloved phrases.  Below we give Totem’s definition of each one, starting with our favourite…

Talent

The definition of talent depends on the organisation.  Some companies talk about their “top talent,” and they tend to identify high-flyers based on previous performance and potential to become future leaders.  This definition is usually what is being referred to in “talent development.”  Other companies use a broader definition that the workforce is the talent – the focus of business, the most critical resource.  This broader definition is usually what is being referred to in the term “talent management.”

Talent Development

Keeping hold of our best people is a focus for every organisation.  Talent Development describes the process of identifying top talent or high-flyers, and the development of those individuals.  This usually forms a part of succession planning, which involves planning who will take on critical roles in the business when the current post-holder leaves.  If your CFO were to leave tomorrow, who is ready now to step into that position?  What are you doing to develop your top talent, so that they are ready to move into critical roles?  These are the risks that talent development is designed to avoid.

Talent Pool

Usually a group of individuals in an organisation who have been identified as high-flyers or top talent.  The company will normally invest in this group’s development – see talent development.  Talent pools are also referred to in a recruitment context, when we talk about the talent pool in the market we can select from – i.e. the talent or skilled individuals appropriate for our role, that we would like to recruit from.  Forward-thinking, pro-active organisations will often have a constant view of the external talent pool, using tools like Linked In to keep in touch with individuals they may one day like to recruit or head-hunt.

Talent Management

This is quite simply good people management, but the new name recognises that people are our talent; our most critical resource.  Talent Management describes a broad area of work that encompasses recruitment, learning and development, engagement, talent development, leadership development, succession planning, critical role analysis and outplacement.

Succession Planning

Planning for the succession of the business and its people.  This is the name for a critical business practice of thinking through who will take on important jobs if someone should leave.  “Where is our next CEO coming from?”  And, “what would we do if the FD left tomorrow?”  Questions like these need to be answered, so we plan by identifying individuals that may have the potential to do those roles, then ‘groom’ them for the position.

Leadership Development

Leadership development tends to be delivered to develop certain skills or behaviours in the senior team.  It can often come about following a change in the business that requires a different kind of leadership style, or a general realisation that things are not as the could be.  It is difficult to develop anything until you know what you’re aiming for and where you are now.  We begin by working with clients to understand what they need from their leadership team.  This can come in the shape of organisational values and competency frameworks or a more specific review of leadership competencies required to meet business objectives.  We then design some way of measuring where each leader is performing now against that benchmark, usually through a development centre, personality profiling and 360 feedback.

Critical Role Analysis

A way of finding out what the most important roles in a business are, and how to plan for people leaving.  Traditionally, succession planning has targeted development for top Director-level roles, but are these the most critical roles in the business?  We identify the truly critical roles and therefore concerning risks in the business, so that high-potential individuals can be targeted and developed for the most important jobs.

Generation X, Y, Z

These terms are used to describe a certain demographic, where trends have been observed regarding communications experience, employee working preferences and career tendencies.  Generation X is the baby-boomer generation, born post World War 2 and generally expecting more of a job for life.  Y is the generation born between roughly 1970 and 1990, growing up with more exposure to the internet and tending to change jobs every 3 years.  Generation Z, born post 1991, has only known a world of the internet, mobile phones and fast-moving information.  Employees from this generation have very high demands of employers, including a focus on work-life balance, and tend to like to move jobs every 1-2 years.

360 Feedback

Essentially means all-round feedback.  We ask for feedback on job performance and behaviour from the individual, their manager, peers, direct reports and sometimes even their clients or customers.  This provides a much broader indication of strengths and development areas than we could get from just self-scoring or manager feedback.  This can be useful for 1:1 coaching, leadership development, skills gap analysis and many more conversations.

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Treading Your Own Path

own-pathTreading your own path – not easy, but you won’t regret it!

We’re continuing the trend of inviting guest writers to contribute to our site.

And this month we’ve got an absolute peach!  We’d like to introduce Jo Pursaill, formaly Director of Global Talent Development at American Express.  You can connect with Jo here!

But enough of our waffle.  Ladies and Gentlemen we proudly present Jo Pursaill…

‘Read something every day that inspires you’.  This was the advice given by leadership guru, Ken Blanchard, at a conference I attended a year or so ago.  This really resonated with me.  It can be easy to get caught up in day-to-day ‘stuff’, and not always stand back and remember the things that are important

For a while now, I’ve been subscribing to ‘The Daily Guru’ – an email service which sends me [very] short inspirational emails each morning.  Many are quotes which take less than a minute to read.  Some naturally resonate more than others, but overall they are great and often help provide a sense of perspective and focus.  Here’s one on authenticity I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:

“To be authentic is literally to be your own author…, to discover your own native energies and desires, and then to find your own way of acting on them”
— Warren G Bennis

This one is on my mind, because whilst it seems obvious and easily said, it would appear not so easy in practice.  I’ve been talking to lots of people about their life, work and career – trying to get an understanding of what ‘career’ means to them and how they define meaningful work.

Interestingly a theme which has come through strongly is that many people don’t actually know what they want – and this finding doesn’t appear to be uncommon.  In an article featured in Forbes Magazine, Kathy Caprino – a Career and Executive Coach who has coached hundreds of professionals – highlights this is something she hears consistently. One of the top reasons people give for wanting to leave their job is due to a lack of meaning or purpose.

The topic of purpose is receiving a lot of attention at the moment.  It’s an essential ingredient for a fulfilled life and career, yet it can be hard for people to define.

Jelly Bean Diversity

It’s different for everyone and therefore needs to start with – as Warren Bennis puts it – ‘discovering your own native energies and desires’.

In Bronnie Ware’s book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, the author shares her experiences/ learnings when working in palliative care and tending to the needs of people who were dying.   She spends intimate time with them at this difficult stage near the end of their life, and gets to know them, their life experiences, and their regrets.  The top regret?  ‘I wish I had lived a life true to myself and not what others expected of me’.  I was quite sad to read this….to get to the end of your life and feel this…

So how do you find and tread your own path?

There is clear value in taking some time to figure this out – for the individual, and also for organizations looking to support employees in their career development and provide opportunities to do meaningful work.  Research shows that employees who are optimally motivated and doing work matched to their strengths/passions are 10 times more engaged by their jobs, 31% more productive, and significantly more likely to stay (Optimal Motivation; Blanchard; 2015).

In terms of the ‘how’, conclusions from my research are that whilst this is articulated in different ways, it seems to boil down to 3 things:

Make a deliberate effort to get to know yourself better. There are various self-reflection questions and exercises that can help (organizations can provide toolkits, training and coaching to help employees in this exploration).  A few thought triggers: What have been your greatest achievements?  What can you do better than most?  What would others say?  What do you get ‘lost in’ and time just flies by?  This can take time to figure out – it can sometimes help to draw a ‘life map’ plotting key points in your life, to get you thinking.  Also just to ‘observe’ yourself over time and see what you’re noticing about what energizes you, what you’re drawn to, etc.

Spend time really figuring out what you want. There are unlikely to be straight-cut answers, and again it will take some exploration.  Questions to consider include: What is your personal definition of success? (it’s different for everyone). What do you value most in your work/life?  For what do you want to be known?  Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’ll enjoy something until you actually do it.  Some recent advice I received….write down all the things you think you might want, then create low risk ‘testing strategies’ for each so you can try them out, e.g. talk to someone already doing the job to learn about ‘a day in the life of’, do a short-term project assignment.  Then you can start crossing things off and/or get closer to what you want.

Make a plan and start taking action. Now you’re clearer on what you want, you can be more deliberate about the things you can focus on to get there.  Who do you need to speak with, what new skills/experiences will you need, what relationships do you need to build?  If it’s a big change it can be scary – in reality there’s no getting away from this as it’s a natural part of the process.  A coach can sometimes help to work through any fears or barriers.  It’s also a good idea to write down your career aspirations/plan to help you stay focused.  Amazingly, Ken Blanchard has written his obituary, personal mission and values and reads them every day!

What I’m learning is that treading your own path is not necessarily easy or straight-forward – it takes time, exploration, self-honesty and a deliberate effort.   But in the grand scheme of life and looking back on a good one…it’s got to be worth it!

To get in touch with Jo directly about this article you can follow this link,

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Lotus Flower Creativity Tool

Totem-Lotus-Flower-400x265Bringing back the genius with Petals of Creativity

There’s a great deal of evidence to suggest that we’re actually all born geniuses.  By genius we mean a person who displays exceptional creative ability, or divergent thinking. Ken Robinson gives an outstanding account of this in the video here (click forward to 7mins40 if you’re tight on time and just want the relevant bit).

But by the time we’ve become young adults, our linear and regimented education system has taken its toll, we’ve learned that there is one right answer to every question and we have been strongly encouraged to stick with that.  So when our employer one day tells us they want us to be creative, to innovate, to think outside the box or brainstorm – we can face a pretty serious challenge.

Aside from not having developed skills and practice in creative thinking, we also face the challenge of our lazy brains.  It’s a good thing that our brains are lazy and operate on auto-pilot most of the time, because otherwise we’d be reaching burnout many times per day.  We know our route to work, how to drive the car, how to interact with colleagues in an appropriate way (sometimes!) and how to get routine jobs done.

The issue is that when we are confronted with a new challenge, we go into that same autopilot response.  We subconsciously jump in rapid speed to something in our past that has worked before – and that becomes our solution.

Totem Lollipops

Someone slightly more reflective might come up with two or three ideas to consider – but again these come to mind quite quickly based on previous experiences and our beliefs.  We analytically select the most promising approach based on our past experiences, and we have our best solution.

This paints a bleak picture – we have been trained not to think in a divergent or lateral way, and our brains are so quick to come up with an autopilot answer anyway, creativity is going to be a struggle.

There are thankfully well researched tools and ideas that can help us, by giving us a structure or framework for stepping out of our usual ways of thinking.  The creative thinking tools split into two types: One encourages you to think of lots of very different ideas, encouraging associative thinking; whilst the other encourages you to really drill down into a particular theme, investigate your assumptions and move beyond them.  This second type is great for really interrogating an issue or problem – and the Lotus Flower technique is one of the most powerful.

Originally developed by Yasuo Matsumura of Clover Management Research in Chiba City, Japan, the Lotus flower technique helps you to organise your thinking around significant themes, starting with a central subject and expanding into themes.  Just like a flower opens to reveal more of its scent and its bloom, so this exercise enables us to fully appreciate and explore the creative opportunities inherent in a particular problem.

Lotus-Blossom-720-x-340

Round 1: Place an open question in the centre of the flower and ask people to generate as many ideas as they can in response IN 2 MINUTES – the time is important because it prevents people self-judging and thinking too hard. This round is about getting the generic ideas and the assumptions out in the open.

Let’s say as an example that the question was “how can we attract more customers to our website?”  A 2 minute brainstorm will get out all the classic things we’ve tried before, and it can highlight assumptions being made like “we don’t want to invest any money in this, so I’ve only come up with cost-free options” or “we won’t go for the Google Adwords approach because it didn’t work last time.”

Round 2: Take each of the ideas and “re-pollinate” them, giving pairs or trios of people other people’s ideas to work with.  The groups are given 15-20 minutes to generate 8 more complete ideas.  It is very important at this point that you introduce constraints to the ideas – ie some criteria on what you’re looking for and what sort of ideas you want people to develop.

In our website example, we might say that we want ideas to be specifically describing what exactly we would do.  We might also say that all ideas need to be things each person can directly do something about, avoiding the tendency to say other departments need to do X and Y.

Each group then presents their ideas and the next step would be to choose the best ones and develop them further – but that’s another story…..

Any final idea can of course form the centre of a new lotus flower and the process can begin again.

We may have lost our natural creative genius through our schooling, but with some careful facilitation and some useful tools, we can still be great collaborative innovators.

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Collective Creativity

Totem-Creativity 400x265Is creativity a collective effort?  How do we create creativity?

A recent article published in the British Psychological Society (BPS) Magazine ‘The Psychologist’, suggests creativity may be more about teamwork than individual genius.  Is that a viable idea, and if so, how can we make the most of it at work?

Finding an idea that makes a company grow rapidly, or saves the company millions – that’s gold dust.

Finding the sort of creative genius who comes up with ideas like that – perhaps that’s even more rare.  Or is this idea of a few, wonderful creative types coming up with all the great ideas, a bit misleading?  Research quoted by the BPS suggests that those moments of creative genius are outcomes of favourable circumstances and strong collaboration.  Most great innovations have one name marked against them, followed by a team of collaborators.

The 2012 movie about the creative genius of Alfred Hitchcock depicted the important role of his wife Alma Reville.  The teamwork between the pair was apparently critical in developing the movies that shocked and impressed audiences.  Steve Jobs is the one name put to the rise and rise of Apple – yet his team of innovators is expansive.

And when we think of personal examples of creativity and innovation – big or small – we usually find one idea sparked, with plenty of support to build it into a reality.

Whilst there’s no doubt that certain people are indeed creative wonders, this research does point to a brighter opportunity for businesses.  Rather than waiting or hoping for a creative genius to come along, companies can encourage collaboration and sharing in order to grow their creative output.

Of course that’s not necessarily a simple thing to do, as the research with actors in improvisation highlights that you need each person to be focused on working as part of the team – not out for their own success.  That can be a real challenge in what is often seen to be a high pressure situation: The creative brainstorm.  Egos, concerns over saying the wrong thing, wanting to look good, not wanting to fail – all of that noise will get in the way of strong creative collaboration.

Totem Gummi Bears

What can we do with this information?

Creating a safe space for people to leave their egos, fears and concerns at the door, would be really quite useful for encouraging creativity.  Easier said than done.

If we know that more creativity can come from groups who are focused on the team and effectively collaborating, than that is definitely a starting point.  We need to consider how our organisational culture promotes the individual ego, the drive for personal achievement and how we respond to failure.  If we ask a few people how things work around here – do they talk about teamwork, true collaboration and a focus on learning from failure?  Or do they talk about hardworking silos of people who do everything they can to succeed and hate to admit or explore (“dwell on”) failure.

Before jumping into the brilliant tools out there for getting the creativity flowing, it seems it’s critical for us to explore and challenge the culture in the business.  How we respond to someone’s crazy idea or failure could make or break creativity before it begins.

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Critical Role Analysis

critical-roleTrust us, it’s more exciting than it sounds!

Critical Role Analysis is a tool to find out what the most important roles in a business are, so businesses can plan for people leaving.

When it comes to succession planning and the development of top talent, we need to know which roles are so important to success, that they are essentially business risks that need to be managed.  What if the person in our most critical role went off sick tomorrow for six months?

Traditionally all development has pointed to the top – we prepare top talent to become the future CEO, but as organisations flatten out and specialist roles are given as much emphasis as managers, we need to flex that approach.  Arguably, an organisation can survive without a CEO, but can it survive without the people who uphold its technical infrastructure, customer services and other critical operations?  Who buys the biscuits?

Knowing what these roles are, means you can effectively succession plan for them and develop your talent or high-flyers to move into those roles when required.  This is classic risk management – by planning for a critical role, you will save your business time and money, by avoiding the need for reactively hiring an expensive, inexperienced new starter.

Totem Lollipops

One simple way to do this is using a critical role grid (draw yourself and X and Y axis and you’re all done…) and then plot the greatest risks based on two measures:

Impact – on the success of the business – essentially, the value of a role’s contribution

Expertise – level of specialist skill or experience required to do the job well, which affects recruitment

Where it gets a little more complicated is in establishing the context and criteria for each role.  The CEO of a large multinational is arguably far easier to replace than a Founder.  Steve Jobs for example, has left a legacy that will stretch far beyond a generations worth of Apple executives.

On the flip side, the caretaker with 50 years of experience and possible the lowest salary in the building – is quite often the key to a business successfully operating on a day to day basis.  That context needs to be built into your assessment criteria.

Strategy Alignment

In many ways Critical Role Analysis is a business planning process, and the companies that have the most success are those that hand responsibility for the analysis to line managers and senior management teams.

It’s these management teams that are responsible for strategy execution and are subsequently best placed to view each role in the context of the wider business ambitions.  We would really encourage anyone who is critically evaluating roles within their business to seek buy in and engagement from those effected by the role they’re assessing.

We often see the needs of the business as an ambition some point off in the distance, or from today’s ‘need it now’ context.  There is a grey area in between called the unexpected.

Starting the analysis conversation early will certainly prepare you for the future, but it may also prepare you for what tomorrow unexpectedly brings.

Superman Logo courtesy of DC Comics.   Getting in touch with Totem about Critical Role Analysis, or indeed any of our Recruitment services couldn’t be easier.  Simply click me or have fun with the links below!

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