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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HC analytics – poll results


The results from our mini-poll are now in!  (First, it should be noted that the poll was highly unscientific, open to anyone who chose to participate.)  We received a total of 65 responses, predominantly from individuals in for-profit organizations of medium to large size. 

Asked about organizational areas of focus where respondents thought that HC analytics could have a positive effect, three areas were each selected by over 85 percent of respondents: employee engagement/ commitment, employee retention, and leadership effectiveness.  All other possible choices (including sales, quality, diversity, and safety) were each selected by fewer than half of respondents.   When asked which of these areas represented the single highest current priority for improvement, 41 percent chose leadership effectiveness.

In almost half of all responding organizations (43 percent), the CEO makes decisions about spending on HC analytics.  Interestingly, respondents reported budgets for HC analytics are generally quite tight. Many reported their budgets were zero, minimal or unknown. Among the respondents who reported budget levels, the average budget is $6.90 per organizational employee. Finally, many respondents (44 percent) indicated they’d look first to a firm with a specialty in analytics for outside assistance in this area.

So what do we take away from all this?  First, it’s clear that most respondents are still thinking about HC analytics in “traditional” areas – leadership effectiveness, employee engagement/commitment, retention.  Only a minority have begun to extend their thinking to incorporate HC analytics into assessing key organizational outcomes like sales and quality. 

We were also intrigued by the low analytics budgets for most respondents.  It appears that the dollars may not yet have caught up to the talk – people are more interested in HC analytics, but only a vanguard of organizations have truly committed monetary resources to following through on that interest.  We’d expect that those on the cutting edge in this area will begin to develop a competitive advantage over their peers whose commitment is more lagging.

Full results from the mini-poll are available here.

Tools for tapping the wisdom of the workforce


Under increasing pressure to innovate – without adding more to the research budget – companies are systematically attempting to tap into the insights and good ideas of employees. 

An array of software products is now available to help firms solicit, gather, sort, sift and synthesize their employees’ ideas for saving money, improving customer satisfaction, and growing revenues.   

But unless a company has already earned the goodwill of its employees, these new efforts (which we heartily endorse) are unlikely to ever reach their full potential.  The wisdom of the workforce is a gift that will be given only to employers who are worthy of it.

What makes a great place to work


Two very good central points in a recent article from the Canadian Management Centre, which reminds us of two crucial factors in making your company a better place to work:

First, “people join companies, but they leave managers.”  So it’s vital to ensure that managers and other leaders reflect the organization’s values.  This can be done through a strong emphasis on management culture, accountability, and training.

Second, great workplaces should build on their own special qualities.  So don’t just try to “cut and paste” new initiatives from generic lists of best practices – which may or may not fit in your unique organizational culture.  Instead, identify what’s best and most important in your organization’s work environment, and take steps to build on and improve that.

Employee morale been lagging? Consider a company retreat


Would your team benefit from improved communication, creativity or unity? Consider an out-of-office team-building exercise or weekend retreat.

Remember, this doesn’t mean lectures, board meetings or pounding the corporate drum.  Instead think outside the box and consider some different and off-beat ways for your employees to work together towards a common goal while having fun.

In an in-depth exploration of the possibilities, Catherine and Jen Seda highlight multiple choices, including a gourmet cooking class, a high ropes course, volunteer work, a weekend spa trip, guided tours of your local city – or even more exciting opportunities like race car classes or paintball. Any of these options should allow your employees to bond outside of work, potentially learn new life skills, and feel that their company cares about them by giving them a chance to recharge their batteries.

If done right, it should create an immediate benefit for you and your employees – as well as helping with attracting and retaining employees over the longer term.

What employees want at work


Susan Heathfield’s blog has a nice list of five factors that she’s found employees look for in their work: respect, access to information, development opportunities, involvement in decision-making, and good leadership.

(Our analytic work with clients through the McBassi People Index® has confirmed the importance of each of those factors in multiple organizations.) 

Two other factors that our analysis often finds particularly important in driving employee commitment?  Jobs that make good use of an employee’s skills and talents, and being part of an organization that encourages and enables teamwork.

The most important employee factors – in shaping employee commitment as well as key business outcomes – vary significantly across different organizations, of course.  So it’s always smart to analyze the unique drivers of employee and business outcomes for your specific organization.

New thinking about pro bono work


Engaging in pro bono work is a good way to help companies establish a track record and expand their portfolios of satisfied clients.  An article in Inc. Magazine explores other benefits as well (including keeping employees sharp and motivated) and offers a few tips to companies interested in starting such programs.