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Smart organizations are using nimble tech tools that allow them to keep up with constant change.
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The current workforce includes people who are not only “technology-aware” but also “technology-dependent.” Sadly, employers’ need to adapt to the shifting talent landscape rarely comes with an increased HR budget. Making smart technology selections can help HR not only accept change, but also embrace it. Here are some ways to do that:
Listen and act. For the past year—or 20—businesses have been sending a strong message: “We need more tools to develop our employees.” What employees want are tools that save them time. They want solutions to help them and their teams do their jobs better, not take them away from their work. And those tools must be simple. In 2015, technology should not require training, documentation and help screens. It should be practical and facilitate change. For example, when business leaders say they need to teach their managers to give more-regular feedback, they are not asking managers to do more formal reviews. Rather, they want tools that make it easier to record feedback or provide more on-demand ratings or training.
Change from push to pull. Instead of forcing employees to comply with practices and policies, make it easier for them to do what business leaders want and need them to do. If you want managers to provide more instant feedback, make that process easier through mobile tools. If more-accurate goals and better goal alignment are key, help managers update their goals (and their direct reports’ goals) in real time or as part of team meetings.
Change what you monitor. As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. So why not gauge the behaviors you’re trying to change and demonstrate the correlation between performance and behaviors? If you want managers to provide more-regular feedback, give them tools to easily monitor who is and is not receiving (digital) feedback. If you want them to quickly record unacceptable behavior before it becomes an issue, provide tech solutions that allow them to record those incidents and to monitor feedback and subsequent training. Even better, give them software that sends them reminders to take action and update ratings and that allows them to see the impact feedback is having on an individual’s performance.
Change your approach to competencies. Many companies limit their catalog of job competencies to a short list of core and/or leadership abilities. Others create large libraries for every role. Neither approach is necessarily right or wrong, but be flexible and resourceful in approaching the issue. Making a comprehensive list of competencies can eat up a lot of time and money and ultimately still not hit the mark. Instead, start with a short list of critical competencies for jobs or job families, then add and remove definitions as needed.
Change your training sources. There is a plethora of online training available today, much of which is free or accessible at affordable subscription rates. Give employees tools that make it easy to load course offerings, to link to skills, to promote and track usage, and to contribute feedback through user ratings. Authoring tools continue to emerge and improve, allowing anyone to turn presentations and simple videos into sharable content and to create training quickly, whether it’s recording a presentation on a laptop or simply uploading a five- to 10-minute training course with a smartphone. Identify mentors in your workforce with specific skills, and allow those individuals to create and record training modules that can be tied to job-specific skills. By decentralizing training, you get employees more involved and grow a library of training faster.
Change the plan, not the goal. Companies routinely establish corporate and departmental goals. More companies are implementing ways to either cascade goals down or align goals upward. But don’t assume that just because you create goals for the year, plans don’t change. A better approach is to adopt tools that allow managers and employees to modify goals and track changes as they happen. Could your goal-planning tools be used to more effectively conduct team meetings? Are your goals out of alignment with teams’ day-to-day activities? The more your tools are aligned with employees’ actual work, the more they will use the technology.
Change how you prioritize goals. The HR tools that your organization uses should make it easier to accurately reflect the priorities on which you are asking teams to focus, giving management a more accurate view of what is actually happening.
Change your review processes. Originally created to provide consistency and protect organizations from disgruntled employees, performance reviews in today's environment appear to frequently put companies at greater risk. In many cases, reviews that are not done with care can expose a company to increased external scrutiny and even litigation. At best, they waste managers' time. Select tools that allow managers to enter performance information any time, and then capture a full snapshot of employee information on an annual (or more frequent) basis. Analyzing data on employees with low ratings and tracking subsequent follow-up by their managers can identify opportunities for leadership development.
Paul Meyer has been leading talent management software development teams as the president of Starfield Talent Management Solutions, acquired by Ascentis in 2014. He can be reached at
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