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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.

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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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Is Tech Taking Over?

matrixThe ugly truth?  Is Tech taking over?

We all could probably have guessed that the day would come when CEOs would put technology over people as their top priority.  But seeing the data from Korn Ferry that today is that day is still a hard pill to swallow.

For years CEOs have stated people, talent, the leadership pipeline and general leadership capability as their top concern, but now technology is topping the list for over 60% of global leaders.  It’s understandable given the rapid pace of development in the tech world and the fact that most companies are still racing to keep up whereas before they may have been market innovators.

However the fact remains that technology alone does not make a successful and sustainably growing blue chip business.  Well, not yet anyhow.  Over 40% of business leaders believe that technology will one day make the human workforce obsolete according to Korn Ferry’s surveys, but we’re certainly not there yet.

So what does all this mean for the discerning business leader, HR or learning professional?  There’s certainly a risk that it means tighter budgets.  If CEOs are pushing toward greater investment in technology, then it could mean money is pulled from people attraction, development and retention.  Or it could simply mean we need to get smarter about how we link our people development with our technology.

Working with one client recently there was a realisation that customer service staff were not using the highly intelligent online tools that their customers were using.

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This meant that customers were better educated than staff on product price comparisons and reviews.  That’s easy to fix, but you need to know where the problems are in order to fix them.  We can be very guilty in the people function of putting out information and hoping people use it, when in fact we need to be marketeers to grab attention.

In a totally different organisation, the challenge was getting people to work across brands and across old and new tech systems, to provide a more seamless service for business clients.  Again it’s the people making best use of the technology that makes the difference.

What are the tech developments in your business and market?  How are you connecting your people with those advances to maximise their value?

Korn Ferry’s research shows an understandable yet concerning shift in CEO attention.  The role of the people function in future (as if it hasn’t always been so) will be to keep people at the forefront of business leaders’ thinking.

That’s how we maximise the developments in technology.

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Finding Your Inner Emoji

emojipeopleWhat will be the impact of this curious language?  🙂 

The fastest growing language of modern times is not English or Mandarin – it is the language of emoji. The emoji, taken from the Japanese word for e-character, has only been around for a few short years, but is increasingly adopted as a universal method of communication.

The reasons behind its popularity are not surprising. Emojis represent concepts and emotions much more simply than words and take far less time for the brain to decode.

Pictures transcend language barriers and allow us to communicate quickly about things that are important to us. In a modern society characterized by increasingly short attention spans, the emoji can be an answer to the question of how to do or say more with less.

Indeed, the rise of the emoji actually takes us back full-circle to our anthropological origins, where our ancestors made survival decisions based on instant visual stimuli.  So what might this mean for a learning environment? 😕

The fact that using visual images helps learners to process information more quickly and/or easily is nothing new. Whilst words are technically also images, reading is a translation process and so takes much longer for the brain to process than a well-chosen image.  In fact, according to research by 3M we can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

However, the emoji reminds us how powerful very simple images can be in putting an important message across quickly and to a mass audience. We see with our brains, via pattern recognition, which is why we tend to be able see very familiar patterns such as faces in everyday objects.  So, the image that we are projecting does not have to be very precise, it just needs to trigger a pattern recognition in the brain.

The challenge for most learning providers is that as a younger workforce moves into the marketplace, we’ll need to communicate with them in a way that we’re not used to.  How many workshops have you designed using emojis?  😯

Whilst the effectiveness of the emoji in personal, informal communication is relatively well understood, its application as a tool for business is less so, but help is at hand.  Many large brands have begun experimenting with emojis as a marketing tool, as emojis can help brands humanise themselves by adding an emotional layer to their communications.

For example, Domino’s have created a service that allows a customer to order a pizza by texting a pizza emoji.  The World Wide Fund for Nature also used the panda face emoji to raise awareness about endangered species, and this was designed to encourage those who regularly use emojis of pandas to donate to its conservation efforts.

The key challenge will be how to translate the work being done with emojis in a marketing context, to work being done in an L&D context.  It’s quite clear that emojis offer the L&D world a way to increase engagement and trigger deeper emotions and conversations, but only if they are highly relevant to your message and your target audience.  😎

As the world’s understanding of Visual Literacy grows, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the rise of this new form of language.  As the age of our workforce changes and the young people of today bring fresh forms of communication into the workplace, it would be wise for us to be already able to speak their language.

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