Faced with making a decision that could have potentially disastrous consequences, would you bite the bullet and take accountability? Or would you see how you could buy yourself a little more time, get just that little bit more information that will help steer you in the right direction and wait for more clarity? Often enough, if we have the opportunity to postpone or delay a decision, we would take it gladly, especially if it was critical enough in nature. Though a non-decision in many ways is still a decision, time and time again we see how fear drives us all.
Nobody wants to take the fall for making a bad call. Although our work responsibilities necessitate us making quick decisions, we tend to stall in hopes of more clarity and higher probabilities of success.
Facets of Making Effective Decisions
As leaders and managers, perhaps we believe we need to make all the decisions before us but that is not true. As leaders, our job is to lead and making decisions is but one facet of the role. But with decisions to be made across a spectrum of things, large and small, that may affect one or many across an enterprise, how are we to make good decisions?
The modern enterprise is fraught with many challenges. Layers of organisational hierarchy, informational siloes, an inundation of data from a variety of sources and all the trappings we as managers insert into our processes supposedly to help, not hinder, all contribute to make decision making into that nightmare many of us face on a daily basis.
How can decision making be stripped back to its basics so that it enables us to do what we need to do – making better decisions?
First, it starts with trust.
The entire point of hiring people is to help us get things done which necessitates managers getting out of the way once tasks are appointed. Trust that the people we’ve hired to help us grow our business can do the task set and let them get on with it.
Second, it continues with empowerment.
This necessitates a few things. Organisations need to arm their people with the skills and information they require to do their job. Clarity of objectives, effective planning and a proper handoff are all critical for achieving success. Empowerment also means a willingness to allow someone else to call the shots, make the big decisions and then to see how things transpire. In effect, there is an acceptance of the possibility of inherent failure because we do not control every aspect of the decision-making process.
Third, it ends with accountability.
Together with the trust and empowerment bestowed, is the expectation that the decision-maker is now accountable for what happens consequent to the decisions made? Why is accountability so important? Because someone must take the fall, must be held responsible. Because the buck has to stop somewhere. In our experiences within our own organisations and in the news we see, we note how organisations are increasingly complex, how individuals hide behind the corporate veil, how accountabilities are murky and decision making processes involve a ton of paperwork, governance and time. Can things be overlooked? Can disasters take place? Can lives be lost? Of course, which is why all decisions need to be supported by accountability.
Fourth, it involves building into the decision the action to carry it out.
What does this mean? As Peter F. Drucker stated in his 1967 HBR seminal article, The Effective Decision, “Converting the decision into action is the fifth major element in the decision process. While thinking through the boundary conditions is the most difficult step in decision making, converting the decision into effective action is usually the most time-consuming one. Yet a decision will not become effective unless the action commitments have been built into it from the start.” In other words, decision making is not just about theory – it is about doing what needs to be done to support the decision made.
Decisions without actions are merely empty words. Set an actionable plan from the start to ensure that decisions can be carried out quickly and effectively.
McKinsey in their work helping organisations become more agile, have found that it is possible to accelerate the improvement of decision making by categorising the types of decisions made – they’ve observed four types of decisions : big-bet decisions, cross-cutting decisions, delegated decisions and ad hoc decisions.
Decision-making, like many other things in life, require deliberate practice. More importantly, it also requires quiet reflection post-decisions so that thinking and actions can be reviewed for betterment. Decisions need to be tracked, feedback on decisions need to be sought so that relevant parties can take a look at both decisions made and the manner in which they are made.
Ultimately, good decisions are borne of experience and much as we don’t want to admit, many of these experiences are the result of bad decisions which we come to learn from.
The employee experience is about the entire journey – every touchpoint, every interaction of an employee’s time spent within an organisation. For many Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers, this may take place over the course of years, if not decades but for many folks today, it may be a period of months or a few short years. Nevertheless, it is still about the journey.
This begs the question, if we can positively impact the employee experience (EE), if we can create memorable experiences, do these not make a difference in their lives and the work they create? Yes, of course it does.
Crafting a positive employee experience involves the entire journey an employee will go through.
Organisational Structures Need to Change
Perhaps, that is the reason why EE has become such a trend. Jacob Morgan talks about the emergence of roles like “Global Chief Employee Experience Officer” or “Head of Employee Experience”. Denise Lee Yohn, in her Forbes article, talks about 2018 being the year of employee experience. What does all this mean?
It is recognition of the clear correlation between frontline engagement, customer service, productivity, performance as well as revenue growth. This affects all employees – candidates, contingent workers as well as alumni. With this correlation must come the shift in our approach from instructional design to experience design. When it comes to experiences, organisations have long held the view that it is about the employee fitting into the organisational culture. It has long been about how we need to get our people aligned to our organisational objectives.
Employee Experience is Built By Your People
But work has meaning not just for the organisation but for the people within. Work brings meaning to our lives, helping us connect the individual tasks we accomplish with the greater goals we work to achieve. As such, organisations need to come half way, realising that it is incumbent upon them to meet the employee at the middle. We, as organisations, need to not just fit employees into our organisational culture. These employees create the very culture itself. When we talk about learning and development, our goal should no longer be about finding out what’s missing in the employee toolkit but rather, asking them what they would like to learn. Our goal should be as Josh Bersin puts it, “to deliver learning to where people are”.
“Employees create the very culture itself.” Get your people aligned to shared organisational objectives.
The focus is on the employee. It is not about what we want from them on their first day, for example. Rather, it is about asking what we’d want their first day to be like. The difference is subtle yet palpable.
In the Deloitte 2017 Report, Reimagine and Craft the Employee Experience: Design Thinking in Action, there is clear reference to the need for design thinking to come front and centre, with 3 principles being fundamental to effectively engaging the workforce.
Principle One – Empathise
The first principle is empathy – that empathy helps you see things differently, allowing you to create different experiences which can have varying levels of engagement. As you move up in your career, you will notice less focus and importance placed on your technical ability and far more focus on those skills that really matter – the ability to influence, to listen well, to empathise, to connect, to collaborate and to lead. This is why empathy matters.
It is a skill that allows us to understand, to share and connect with others in terms of what they see, hear and feel. In other words, it allows us to step into the shoes of another. How are we to effect change, to solve problems, to think up new solutions if we only ever see things from our own narrow world-view? This is why empathy is the first of five blocks in Ideo’s Design Thinking Framework.
Principle Two – Envision
The second principle is about stepping outside ourselves because to envision, we must generate a variety of options and see how these can become potential solutions. It is about understanding that we need not be limited into thinking that there is only the one way forward or a zero-sum game.
Principle Three – Experiment
The third principle is experimentation. In another word, testing, where you collect both qualitative and quantitative data so that you are data-driven. You get closer and closer to a more meaningful evaluation of your problem. This helps you come up with solutions that are more targeted.
We worry that that AI and increased automation will take away many jobs. Yes, it will but at the same time, it will free us to do more meaningful and valuable work. The kind of work that matters. If we want that to grow, to develop further, to manifest in a variety of ways previously unimagined, then we need to craft the kind of employee experiences that touch us in more ways than one.
SelfDrvn, an all-in-one tech platform to retain, reward and engage talent, has become the first Malaysian company to be featured in the Gartner Hype Cycle! SelfDrvn was listed as a vendor in the Worker Engagement Platform category for the 2018 Hype Cycle for the Digital Workplace.
What is the Gartner 2018 Hype Cycle Report?
Gartner’s annual Hype Cycle measures the maturity and adoption rates of various technologies and provides insight into how relevant they are in solving business problems. The Hype Cycle helps you discern the hype from what is commercially viable by providing a graphical representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications. This helps you discover how one technology or application can evolve over time.
Previous Hype Cycle for the Digital Workplace, 2017. Source: Gartner
Each Hype Cycle drills down into 5 key phases of a technology’s life cycle, namely:
- Innovation Trigger;
- Peak of Inflated Expectations;
- Trough of Disillusionment;
- Slope of Enlightenment; and finally,
- Plateau of Productivity.
By mapping out the technology against the different phases of its life-cycle, stakeholders and potential investors can then decide how soon to get on board, how to reduce risk on their tech investment decisions and compare the investment against potential business value.
The Hype Cycle for the Digital Workspace report includes suggestions for potential advancements and suggestions for best-fit solutions and vendors.
SelfDrvn, sample Vendor in the Worker Engagement Platform category
This year, SelfDrvn was listed as a vendor in the Worker Engagement Platform category with the following metrics:
Benefit Rating : High
Market Penetration : 1 – 5 percent of target audience
Maturity : Emerging
Worker Engagement Platforms are designed to boost employee engagement and motivation by providing positive worker experiences. Behavioural economics and positive psychology represent some of the focus areas in order to maximise worker adoption.
Gartner’s VP of research and HR tech Ron Hanscome explains – these platforms are designed to incorporate various disciplines such as gamification, corporate social responsibility, social recognition tools as well as industry-specific workforce management solutions. The aims are simple – increase engagement and performance by looking at elements such as recommendations, mindfulness and connecting through purpose.
Multiple activities are supported such as regular feedback, coaching, competition, team or social activities, personalisation as well as social recognition. Game-style mechanics help to increase adoption in general. Worker engagement with the platform is, therefore, quite high thanks to these activities. Consequently, workers provide more input and feedback on work-related factors. Among other things, they can discuss work schedules, best practices and working conditions, thus providing real-time feedback on their engagement level.
Worker engagement platforms are an emerging aspect of the current digital workplace. As employees are increasingly mobile and on-line, such platforms reach out to the evolving needs of the workforce today.
Strong correlation between engagement and business impact
Employee engagement correlates very strongly with business performance as indicated by numerous studies by Gartner, Gallup, Hay, Willis Towers Watson and more. Worker motivation and engagement are critical in any work environment especially when innovation, creativity and cross-collaboration is called upon. Disciplines such as neuroscience, behavioural economics and positive psychology, when embedded in these platforms, teach us a great deal about motivating individuals.
Organisations today should have a strong focus on employee engagement in the workplace. Ron Hanscome suggests that by investigating and piloting some of the tools and techniques showcased, organisations can come to their own decisions about the strengths and weaknesses of these different tools fitting into their individual organisational culture and context. As these solutions are still emerging, there is no commonly defined feature set. The use of leading design practices such as the use of personas or worker journey mapping will help ensure functionality improvement and better worker experiences.
SelfDrvn was established in 2015 by our CEO, Lam Mun Choong — an entrepreneur with a background in software engineering and a passion for understanding human sciences. Our mission is to enable a world where employee wellbeing is the key to company success. We want to help companies develop a thriving workplace culture that can build great employee engagement, recognition, retention and performance. So we’ve designed a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platform that can help organisations improve engagement with their employees and customers through effective communication, gamification and behavioral analytics. Our product is part technology, part psychology, and part process. We believe that positive empowerment and people-centred strategies are the keys to building a successful business.
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.
The Gartner Peer Insights Logo is a trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc., and/or its affiliates, and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.
Gartner – “9 Questions That Should Be in Every Employee Engagement Survey”
Gartner – “Hype Cycle For the Digital Workplace, 2018”
Gallup – “How Employee Engagement Drives Growth”
Willis Towers Watson – “The Power of Three – Taking Engagement to New Heights”
Our (and Nettium’s) CEO, Lam Mun Choong was a keynote speaker at the 2018 Talent Ecosystem Conference, held on the 15th of August at Connexion, Bangsar South. He delivered a session on the topic of “Driving Business Outcomes by Focusing on the Employee Experience”.
Mun Choong first introduced the concept of design thinking – a process that serves as a protocol for solving problems and discovering new opportunities. Deloitte research indicates that companies where HR delivers the highest levels of value are almost 5X more likely to be using design thinking in their programmes compared to their peers.
Central Aspects of EX
When his team (Nettium) first approached the idea of designing their EX, they centered their strategy around addressing employee needs, making work more human, and to make work simpler through living out company values. Applying design thinking, his focus has been on three central aspects of the EX – culture, the workspace and technology.
Nettium’s Improved Benchmarks
Mun Choong outlined some intriguing statistics from Nettium over a 3-year period, ending 2015. While Nettium showed a 2X rise in headcount (86 to 174), the company’s productivity index went up by 2.5X, quality index by 1.4X, and customer satisfaction rose from a B- to a B+.
Nettium also showed lower absenteeism, which brought more than MYR1.36 million to their annual bottom line. A higher rate of employee advocacy was seen as well, which contributed to more than MYR600,000 in annual savings for their recruitment costs. More than 50% of all employees hired up to now have been coming in through employee referrals.
These findings have reinforced the belief that a good EX contributes significantly to the bottom line. Hence, should be approached with some rigour.
Here’s a sneak peek into the 3 central aspects of Nettium’s EX that Mun Choong shared.
The Employee Experience – Culture
There are three gaps, in particular, that Mun Choong wanted to address. First, the knowledge gap because employees often lack an awareness of the culture that the organisation needs. They are often more concerned with their own situation.
Second, the mindset gap – not everyone will believe in the culture that the organisation needs. You will, therefore, need to spend time to see how you can bridge this gap.
Finally, the behaviour gap where employees do not always incorporate the behaviours related to the culture that the organisation needs.
All 3 gaps had to be filled before focusing on communicating the importance of culture. Leaders have the responsibility to manage things operationally based on the culture they create. This involved budgets, structures they establish, as well as policies they enforce.
The Employee Experience – The Workspace
Mun Choong wanted the workplace to be employee-centric, which reflecting the company’s aspirations and values. He involved the employees from the start. The office is Instagram-able, and creates a sense of belonging and pride for all. The workspace helps greatly in employer branding.
Flexible options are present, ranging from open, team-based workspaces, stand-up meetings, sofas and cafes, recreation and nap rooms. He mentioned that people often ask about the purpose of a nap and games room – is he encouraging his people to sleep on the job, or play when they should be working? Would it not be distracting?
Mun Choong’s response was that the environment needs to be a product of the people who have to live and breathe there for a significant portion of their lives. With a 74/26 male to female ratio where the average age is 29, this is what was in demand. He trusts that people will enjoy and appreciate the environment, and trust that they will accomplish what they need to. The philosophy is, “We treat people they way they want to be treated and the way they deserve to be treated.”
Games room (there’s a PS4, pool table, and foosball table)
Yoga classes to unwind after a long day at work.
The Employee Experience – Tech
Mun Choong decided that helping managers become better coaches and mentors would be a key piece to the positive EX by providing more insight into individual strengths, motivation and stress factors. After all, Gallup research showed that managers account for up to 70 percent of variance in employee engagement.
Behavioural analytics are used to determine the cultural fit, as well as opportunities for job crafting.
Building the culture around collaboration and continuous feedback was going to help. He knew that he could allow technology to become an enabler for a whole host of things – personalised micro learning, provide real-time employee recognition, personalised rewards and flex benefits, help employees improve self-awareness and achieve their goals in real-time.
In his closing notes, he summarised that EX does help to drive better business outcomes. If employers can connect the relationship between the two strongly, they can ensure greater longevity in these campaigns and a better business all around.
This blog post showcases some key slides from Mun Choong’s keynote speech. To get the full public release set of slides, let us know your email here and we’ll email you a copy!
When we talk of feedback, most of the time, what we’re really talking about is our ability to deal with constructive criticism. No one has an issue taking a compliment but nearly all of us find it challenging to hear something negative about our personality, work style or behaviour.
It starts with truth.
Is feedback not working for you? Understand that our solutions lie not in the quality of answers but in the quality of questions we ask. Let’s examine some examples.
Asking a close-ended question with no consideration or empathy gives the impression that you do not care about your workers’ well-being nor current workloads. Even if the question was not designed to be insensitive, an external party could view it as a “no-excuses” obligation to say – “yes”, or a simple “easy-way-out” – “no”.
Leaders can instead ask an open-ended question with the simple addition of “How” in front of their prior question, opening the door for innovative answers and initiative. It also opens up avenues to be empathetic, in terms of catering to how employers can provide the environment or means to allow workers to take on more responsibility. Perhaps through more L&D events? A robust incentive program? This question invites such responses.
It starts with the truth, a recognition of what we see in front of us and a call for us to be honest about how this may make us feel about the people we’re managing and circumstances we find ourselves in. It calls for humanity, yes, humanity.
The thing about corporate life is that it puts a layer between you and your people. We call on this when we need help and when we’re in a mess. “Am sorry about this, my hands are tied. I wish I could do more.” “I’d really like to help you but my boss says this is how it has to be.”
When it comes to helping a colleague in need, too often we are jaded by the selfish demands placed on ourselves regarding our own responsibilities. Hence, we resort to putting up excuses instead of being honest with our colleagues.
What are we really protecting?
We hold on to this protective layer because it helps us out of tough situations. We’re busy protecting ourselves. But if we want feedback to work, we not only have to listen, we have to take action.
We have to show our people that we’re serious about what we want to discover and then remedy. When we show this to them, not through our words but in our behaviour, then we show our people that we mean what we say.
It is easy enough to see things from our point of view – it is the only view we know and are comfortable with, that we believe is the right view. It takes a big pause for us to step outside ourselves to look beyond at this wide, wide world and consider an alternative to what we’ve always seen and understood. So, “what’s not working?” is less about you see as the way things are and how things need to go and far more about what others see and make sense of things.
You owe a duty.
As an organisation, it is your duty, your responsibility to gather and provide feedback to your people. As an organisation, you should regard as serious, this opportunity to grow your people, to inspire them, to bring out the best in them and to lead.
Gather as much feedback on how you can help your employees grow, then deliver actionable behaviour to cater to those needs and wants.
As much as there are things you are expecting your people to provide you in terms of experience and expertise, they are also looking to you for guidance, hope and faith in carrying out their duties. And more than anything else, remember that they give you the best hours of their days and best years of their lives in the fulfilment of their obligations.
That is a lot.
Allow the space for providing and receiving feedback to be one that is less chastisement and more of support. Ask questions about what’s working so you know where you need to reinforce certain actions. Ask questions about what’s not working so you know what needs to be fixed. Ask questions about what’s challenging or frustrating them so you can see what support you can provide. Explore a variety of channels, both formal and informal, to collect and collate feedback.
Ask great questions for great feedback.
Marcel Schwantes, in his Inc article, Here’s how good managers give bad employees feedback, shares that good managers analyse the problem first in order to understand all perspectives. He shared four questions crucial to helping a manager and setting the right expectations and accountability measures with both parties :
- Does the employee understand what the problem is?
- Does the employee really understand that expected level of performance?
- Does the employee fully understand what will happen if performance standards are not met?
- Have you, as the manager, gotten all the facts? Who, what, where, when, why, and how?
Learn to read between the lines.
You’ve got to treat people the way you want to be treated too. Stay aware – learn how to open your eyes to the truth because there is no one version of the truth. We all bring different experiences and insights to our situations and no two situations are alike.
If you’re facing difficulty, you’ll want a good manager who can spot it early, who will come forward to talk about it. You’ll want a manager who is sensitive enough to know how, when and where to bring it up.
Ask the right questions. Be the support your team needs. Learn to read what your colleagues are telling you.
And you’ll want them to be more of a coach about it – asking probing questions, allowing you to come to the solutions yourself rather than being prescriptive and judgemental. Yet, on top of all of these things, you need to remember to stay compliant and stay legal. Do what you need to do and do it right.
HR as the organisational collaboration champion.
What’s it like to constantly be playing catch-up? It means you’re not leading the pack, you’re not a game changer in the domain you operate in and more than anything else, you’re not at the cutting edge. It’s not a pretty place to be because you are one among the crowds, treading a path very much like everyone else alongside you. It also makes you largely invisible.
Don’t be left behind in the corporate wilderness!
Consider this instead.
A new dawn
The thrill of the chase. The idea that you’re out there, experimenting, trying new things and making things happen. People watch to see what you have to say and wait with bated breath. You’re seen as an influencer and leader, changing the game in more ways than one, not just for yourself but for those around you.
It’s a dizzying possibility to soak up but there’s no reason why it cannot happen.
No reason at all.
The truth though is that there are bound to be many failures along this path to success. And it is a path to success because change does not come from doing what’s been done over and over. It comes from trying something new, drawing outside the lines and most importantly, from a strong desire to solve a problem and bring something unique to your game.
Organisational collaboration champion
This is the new role being called for HR as it stands tall, looking forward at the corporate landscape that is is not just a part of but one it has helped to create.
The role of HR has changed, from the previous “organisational police”, to frontrunners in driving collaboration and change.
Because people make up the organisation and HR works to support the talent equation in any organisation. So many negative things have been said about the role of HR and the perception out there of what is lacking in tackling this new world of work.
Just as there is sustained and mounting pressure on CEOs and leadership teams to deliver the numbers, there is equal pressure for HR to step up and step forward and embrace their role.
Because within every crazy or painful difficulty faced, lies the bud of opportunity… if you seek it. And seeking it brings its own reward.
“Within every hardship, there is opportunity.”
However, for HR, there is also untold reward from the recognition and acceptance that will come when HR is seen to be truly contributing, adding value, being strategic and solving problems that relate to people and the organisations they serve. How can that not be?
Every solution starts with ownership of the issue. HR will do well to ensure that their role is driven less by the people around them and more by HR’s own assessment of where it stands in the overall equation and how it sees itself being part of the game in a significant way.
How shall HR do this?
- Question everything. Be driven by your questions, not the answers because the right question makes the critical difference.
- Focus on getting as much of your transactional tasks automated, outsourced or delegated in some way.
- Educate yourself on technology and the role it can play in simplifying your work and your life.
- Dive into all aspects of your business – how it’s run, what customers you serve, what problems you solve, what challenges you face organisationally and what the organisation’s strategic objectives are.
- Have a baseline understanding of the various domains within the business – getting to grips with the financials would be a top priority. Follow this up with data management – having processes and a system for managing the volume of data you’re consuming, driving a data culture internally and analytics.
To quote Seth Godin, “Someone’s driving. It’s either you, going where you choose, or someone else, pushing you.”