Do You Have the Ladder on the Right Wall?


A generally accepted truism is that 80 percent of the work in an organization is accomplished by 20 percent of its employees.  But it is also true – at least based on the view of the world we see in our client work – that most people are working incredibly hard these days.  So how is it that both of these propositions could be simultaneously true?

The most likely answer is that lots of people are spending lots of effort placing and climbing their proverbial “ladders” on the wrong wall – or at least the wrong spot on the wall.  We see it all the time: employees and organizations working diligently, all to maximize the wrong outcome.  Attempting to maximize customer satisfaction is an example.  When you stop to think about it, achieving this objective should be very easy – just produce an acceptable product or service and give it away for free.  But, of course, that would be completely unsustainable.  (The HR equivalent is attempting to maximize, rather than optimize, employee engagement.)

And that is why people involved in this type of work find it so difficult – the organization pushes back to prevent the damage that would occur.

So ask yourself whether a part of the resistance you encounter in work might be the result of attempts to maximize the wrong objective?  In other words, do you sometimes attempt to put the ladder on the wrong wall? And if so, how would you know?

Having solid business acumen skills is the one sure-fire way to avoid this exhausting and career-limiting error.  And it is also why a key element of business acumen – HR analytics – is getting so much attention these days.

It helps ensure that you’ve got the ladder at the right spot on the right wall.

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12 Questions to Enhance Your Career, Part 2


As noted in last month’s newsletter, among our clients, the “better question folks” enjoy disproportionate success.  A key to career success often involves taking a step back and assessing things from a different perspective than many of your colleagues.

The first of the eight questions we proposed last month was the following: “If I were offered the opportunity, would I invest any of my personal assets in my organization?”  If your answer to this question ranged somewhere between “Not so sure” and “You’ve got to be kidding me,” here’s a set of questions for your consideration:

1.  What is it about your organization that makes it a poor choice for investors?

2.  What would it take to turn this situation around?

3.  What role can your department (or function, location, etc.) play in improving the attractiveness of your company to investors?

4.  What does this suggest about the measures and analysis you should be providing to your CEO, Board of Directors, and investors, that would help move your organization in the right direction?

And consider this bonus question: Given your answers to all 12 proposed questions, what role can you play in improving the attractiveness of your company to investors?  Consider possible options for how you might take that path in the days and weeks ahead.  (And if your answer is “none” then you are either working in a hopeless situation, or you have become complacent.  In either case, a change of scenery may be in order.)

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12 Questions to Enhance Your Career, Part 1


In our work with clients, we’re always struck by the power of asking the right questions – and the benefits that accrue to those who ask them.  These “better question folks” tend to be up-and-comers who are well-positioned (regardless of job title) to garner important influence in their organizations.

If you’d like to be one of these people – able to guide organizational conversations with better questions – here are three initial questions for you to consider:

1.  If I were offered the opportunity, would I invest any of my available personal assets in my organization?  (If yes, then continue to the following questions.  If no, then you’ll definitely want to read Part 2, which will appear in our October newsletter.)

2.  What are the primary strengths of my organization that would lead me to invest?

3.  What are the risks I would be most concerned about as an investor?

Then, what do your specific answers to questions 2 and 3 suggest to you about the following:

4.   The key strategic directions your organization should be pursuing?

5.   How you should be spending your time as an employee?

6.   Your career trajectory?

7.   What your department should be doing differently?

8.   The measures and analysis you should be providing to your CEO, Board of Directors and investors?

Why think along these lines?  Truth be told, whether or not you actually invest personal financial assets, you’re already making a huge investment: the scarce resource of your time.  Thinking like the investor that you are can lead to asking more powerful questions.  The answers to those questions will help guide your organization – and enhance your career.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this discussion.


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Four Ways to Get More Value from Your Employee Engagement Survey


Ask any room of HR practitioners how many of them do an employee engagement survey at their firm.  Almost every hand in the room will go up.  Then ask how many are satisfied with the actionable insights they get from their survey.  North of 95 percent of the hands will go down.  (We’re not making this up – we’ve done this experiment on any number of occasions.)

Why is this?  What’s wrong with traditional employee engagement surveys, and how can they be improved?

Over the past decade of working to remedy this situation, we’ve learned there are four steps that transform your employee engagement survey from an HR-check-the-box activity to a sought-after source of actionable insights for driving better business results:

1. Optimize your allocation of survey “real estate” 

  • Focus on questions that are both diagnostic in nature (and therefore, actionable) and known drivers of business outcomes (i.e., include but go beyond typical employee engagement questions).
  • Reduce the amount of space devoted to summative questions, which are typically not actionable.  For example, use no more than 4 questions to directly measure employee engagement.
  • Eliminate questions you do not intend to act on (e.g., “are you satisfied with your pay?”).

2. Link your employee survey data to business outcomes

This requires doing your statistical homework.  It’s not enough to know that your firm benchmarks at the 75th percentile on question #17 if you don’t know whether or not that question is in some way related to your company’s business results (e.g., turnover, sales, customer retention).  Benchmarking can’t tell you what’s important – that’s what linkage analysis is for.

3. Develop fact-based, prioritized, customized recommendations for improving business outcomes

Once you’ve done the linkage analysis, use the results to provide specific, actionable, customized guidance (at an enterprise, business unit, location, and/or manager levels) about how to target specific important (and weak) areas to improve business results (including, but not limited to, employee engagement).

4. Be compelling and easy-to-understand when presenting your results

Don’t confuse a data dump with insight.  While this step is as much art as it is science, it is a critical one for getting more value out of your survey.

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How Does Your Organization Stack Up?


As we’ve mentioned before in this space, people are one of the few remaining sources of long-run competitive advantage; in the short run, however, they are a cost.

To grow and profit, companies must manage this unavoidable tension with awareness and insight.  Increasingly it is the ability to do so (superior “human capital management”) that is sorting out the economic winners from the losers.

This reality is, in turn, elevating the role of the HR function. Those HR professionals who can provide the intelligent analysis on which superior human capital management depends will be the winners within their field.

We’ve spoken to lots of HR professionals who want to get there but aren’t sure where to begin.  With that in mind, we’ve added a new section to our website, containing quick (and free!) interactive self assessments you or your colleagues can use to get a snapshot of the state of your company’s current employee survey, its current analytics capacity, and more.  We’ll be continuing to expand the number of assessments in this section in the months ahead.

Deploying HR Analytics with actionable employee surveys greatly increases the possibility of achieving what we at McBassi refer to as “all-win” solutions.  Analytics helps companies operate in the “sweet spot” – the intersection of sustainably profitable and enlightened management of people.  We work to help HR professionals build exceptionally successful organizations worthy of the best efforts of their people.

That is why we are so passionate about this field.

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