Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Federal Reforms

I was shocked to see a recent article in FederalTimes.com that said that the federal government spent 1.9 percent of their payroll on training between 1997 and 2000. In contrast, the private sector spends averages about 4 percent of its payroll on employee training.

Most of that training money is on upgrading efficiency on job-related tasks, not soft skills pertaining to customer service relations or helping managers communicate with employees.

Apparently, the Obama administration finally recognized the injustice and is set to legislate action to set mandatory spending levels for employee training, retool the performance appraisal process, and create a performance-based pay system.

What percentage of your payroll is spent on employee training? What percentage of payroll should be spent on employee training?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Eye Toward Better Performance at Scripps Health

Perhaps the bigger a company grows, the more conscientious it gets in terms of tracking the quality of its workers.

For example, one of the tools used for performance management at Scripps Health, a San Diego-based non-profit community health care system, is called "The Eye Chart."

Designed by an outside consulting firm, "The Eye Chart" is a large-scale visual tool that looks at factors such as leadership performance and cultural engagement across the entire company.

After compiling data from employee satisfaction surveys, the feedback is transformed into a bottom-up multi-rater leadership assessment. Departments that have healthy "mini-cultures of excellence" are represented in green and yellow quartiles while those that are struggling or failing are represented in orange and red quartiles.

The chart is intended to help managers find both the good and the bad aspects of their department, and to aid executives and operational leaders in making staff decisions.

What other types of performance management tools help companies find the pulse of their workplace cultures?

To find out more about performance management at Scripps Health, read "Prescription for a Turnaround" in the June issue of HR Magazine (SHRM members-only on the web). It details how matching talent with business needs and using rewards-tailored compensation for high achievement helped the company recover financially.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Mother of Innovation

In a world starving for fresh ideas, innovation is being tossed around like pennies as the solution to corporate ills.

If only it were so simple. Employees and managers don’t fall out of bed one day, decide to be innovative and voila, a new idea enters the marketplace. Most innovative companies dedicate resources and significant staff time to scouting new ideas. Oftentimes such companies find a niche before the average consumer and the marketplace is ready for it.

Being innovative does not mean creating a new gadget that did not exist in the marketplace. It refers to addressing a customer need or improving an existing product or service.

Decades ago IBM hired an expensive marketing firm to research the potential of high speed copying machines, according to Scott Anthony in his book, The Silver Lining. There was no need for such technology, marketers said. Good thing IBM didn’t listen.

The conservative nature and absence of creativity inside the walls of most organizations are two prime reasons why innovation is stifled. When executives declare that it is an employee’s job to be innovative that fails to inspire anyone. 3M famously allowed employees to spend 20 percent of their time generating ideas. Spending human capital is just as crucial as greenbacks.

It is possible to be innovative even among laggards like General Motors which developed the On Star hotline service, a highly successful mobile service that customers are willing to pay for.
Where is the best place to start? Try talking to customers first because they are the ones who are most likely best able to express their needs and wants. Few businesses do this today, focused as they are on survival or maintaining unrealistic standards of growth just a few years ago.

The perceived high cost of failure is another barrier to innovation. Most executives blanch at the thought of investing money in an idea that might not yield high returns.

For innovators, failure is only temporary as 3M discovered when its early attempts to create a semi-permanent glue planted the seeds for Post-It notes. Innovation requires the kind of thinking that breaks established convention, the kind of person who says why can’t we do this? It means not being afraid to submit an idea that others shy away from out of fear that it is “stupid” or might draw ridicule.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Serious Gaming in the Workplace

Is serious gaming being taken seriously in your workplace?

What if I asked the same question a different way: Does your organization support simulations as part of your training regime?

Is the word "gaming" scaring off organizations? It shouldn't, because more and more companies are beginning to accept high-tech gaming software as a necessary part of blended learning.

Serious games can be powerful educational tools, allowing users to experiment, learn from their mistakes and safely experience risky or dangerous situations.

It is time to change the perception of "gaming" among CEOs and other corporate executives. It is a valuable learning tool that is taking too long to become a mainstream part of everyday learning.