Archive for May, 2017

Completing The People Puzzle

May 29th, 2017

“It’s always the small pieces that make the big picture”

– Author Unknown

It is no secret that business leaders and organisations are under enormous pressure to become more nimble and agile in how they do business if they are to grow their position in tomorrow’s global market place. As they face increased market volatility, changing workforce demographics, increased demands for flexibility and a constant demand to do more with less, understanding how to best leverage their ‘people capability’ in a timely and efficient manner will be critical. 

Whilst we’ve often heard it said that the key to effective workforce planning is in ensuring that the right people are in the right place at the right time, doing so in a rapidly changing environment is often far more difficult and complex than anticipated. With many change processes taking lengthy times to deliver, it is not unusual for new business needs to emerge midway that require organisations and individuals to pivot or change direction. Doing so seamlessly though is the challenge!

According to the 2015 Hay Group report, Delivering Strategy Through People, direct people costs make up 40% of organisational costs. With almost half the workforce in complex, knowledge intensive roles that are key to the organisation’s success and profitability, the cost of getting the ‘people puzzle’ wrong is high. Whilst the phrase ‘right people, right place, right time’ certainly isn’t redundant, there is a view that it needs to be expanded to ensure that it remains relevant and impactful.

No longer are the ‘right people’ necessarily part of our organisational headcount. With access to the right talent and skills – and a growing self-employed and contract led workforce – accessing external talent pools for one off requirements and interim projects is often a very real and viable option. How we identify and engage the right people with these relevant skills in a timely manner is key and will require strong partnerships and relationships not only with our internal people but also those in the external market.

Where once the term ‘right place’ tended to refer to a geographical location, it is now more appropriate to consider what role or area within the organisation the skills are required. As we continue to move away from more traditional, hierarchical organisational structures to flatter more matrixed team based models, how we enable our people to move with agility and confidence into the ‘right place’ as required will be critical.

As businesses continue to navigate unprecedented amounts of change they will be required to make quick decisions around how they (re) deploy the skills and talents of their people if they are to capitalise on emerging opportunities or mitigate risk against market changes. To do this, they need an agile and resilient workforce that can nimbly move and respond at the ‘right time’ and are not change adverse.

There is no doubt that the optimal workforce lies at the intersection of all three areas. Failing to do so will leave you as a business leader and the organisation feeling like they are sitting on a two-legged stool unable to find balance and stability. When you are out of balance it is all too easy to end up with too many people ‘sitting on the bench’, no longer aligned to the organisational strategy and where engagement and productivity is risked.

4 Key tips to completing the ‘people puzzle’:

Know where your skills are:  Both within your organisation and in the external marketplace. 

Foster agility: Help your people develop agile mindsets to support changing workplace structures. 

Make it easy for people to adapt: Consider the systems and processes that support changing roles, teams and locations.

Communicate, communicate, communicate: Ensure transparency and timely communication is delivered to support engagement and productivity.

What Leaders Need To Know About Managing Repatriates

May 22nd, 2017

“Re-entry shock is like wearing contact lenses in the wrong eyes: everything looks almost right.”

–  Robyn Pascoe

Whilst it is widely acknowledged that repatriation is one of the most difficult aspects of the global mobility cycle it still remains one of the least managed components of the expat assignment. Often associated with high turnover and low engagement, the issue of how to successfully repatriate employees as highly engaged, confident and productive individuals is one that seems to elude most managers and organisations.

Given the high initial costs associated with expatriate assignments, the prospect of losing the recently acquired knowledge, experience and networks of their expatriate population, as well as any future potential only compounds the issue. Furthermore, when repatriates do leave, they typically walk straight through the door of a competitor who stands to yield all of the benefits without having paid for them.

As the demand for global leadership continues to rise, how organisations position themselves to re-integrate and leverage the experience of their assignees will be critical to their future success. The recent 2016 Brookfield Global Mobility survey suggests that 88% of organisations expect their international population to either increase or stay the same in the coming few years, which means the issue of repatriation is not one that will disappear. 

Fundamentally repatriation is about reconnection. Reconnecting to people, places, ways of life and ways of doing business. It is the most under-estimated component of the assignment, both by individuals and organisations simply because it is assumed that ‘going home’ should be the easy bit. It has been familiar once before, individuals have typically been very successful in the environment and have been able to ‘read the play’ intuitively and accurately.  However it is the very nature of assumption that seems to catch both the individual and the organisation by surprise. Given the rapid rate at with organisations change today, individuals can all too easily find themselves returning to structures, leadership teams and market demands that are completely different. To assume that repatriates can simply ‘slot back into’ an old way of working is both short sighted and dangerous.

Organisations and line managers therefore need to ensure that they are helping individuals reconnect with confidence, clarity and purpose.  Understanding that a relocation has impacted every area of their life and not just work is critical. Families have been moved, homes have been changed, new communities have been navigated; and these all need to be reconnected upon an individual’s return.

The following 3 components of repatriation seek to address the core areas for leaders to consider in helping their employees purposefully re-engage upon their return:

  • Logistics: The relocation of an individual’s physical and financial assets is considered the most primary need. Whilst most organisations are well equipped to handle these primary logistics well-established outsourced partnerships, there often remains a need to ensure that support is extended to help spouses and families fully reintegrate in a timely and efficient manner.
  • Career: Whilst career management needs to be an integral part of the entire expatriate assignment, support should be extended through re-induction programs to update and educate individuals on current structures, leadership styles and market demands. Critical to any program is the ability for individuals to see how their international experience has current relevance to the organisation and what the opportunities are to leverage it. Sponsors and mentors can play a key role to help individuals navigate the nuances of business rhythms and operating preferences.
  • Health & Wellbeing: As with any significant move, the impact on individual lifestyles is enormous. Often lifestyle readjustment and reverse culture shock are the hardest components to overcome. Connecting your employees with networks groups where others are currently navigating a similar transition – or who have recently done so – can offer enormous social and emotional support and help expedite the transition period.

Why Career Ownership Is The Key To Business Success

May 15th, 2017

“Prepare and prevent, don’t repair and repent”

– Unknown

When individuals own their career, businesses win. In fact teams win, leaders win and individuals win. Yet when it comes to developing a career strategy, too often employees are left to their own devices to create, execute and measure the effectiveness of their own career management. Consequently businesses and individuals are often at risk of being misaligned, valuing different things and risking engagement, productivity and opportunity. 

At a time when CEO’s and business leaders openly acknowledge the challenge of attracting and retaining the most talented people in the marketplace, there is much merit in helping individuals see and plan for career development within their current organisation. PWC’s recent report Talent Mobility 2020 and Beyond, note that CEO’s have a focus on retaining the best people within their workforce, with two-thirds saying that it is more likely that roles will be filled by offering career progression and internal promotions in the future.

With the recent shift away from the arbitrary style of performance reviews that simply focused on past results or outcomes, there is an ever-increasing need for business leaders to engage in meaningful career oriented discussions with their people. The risk of not doing so is high with employee engagement, productivity, recruitment and retention, workforce planning and performance all emerging as potential hotspots. Coupled with the fact that organisations, teams and individuals need to navigate ongoing change to maintain relevance the added risk of disconnection is high and potentially paralysing.

For many managers and leaders though there still exists an enormous reluctance to engage in the necessary conversations that help people develop realistic career objectives with the organisation they work for. Misunderstandings, confused expectations, individual sensitivities, lack of trust and uncertainty about business direction are often the blockers to these conversations being had.

Developing a mutually beneficial career strategy requires an individual to have an accurate view of exactly what their value is to an organisation; and for business leaders to share information about the company’s future growth plans and how an individual’s value or ‘currency’ is regarded for future opportunities. When these conversations are held in a safe, trusted environment where there is a shared intent to support mutual growth and ambitions, true career ownership is developed.

Individuals who establish a genuine level of awareness and ownership over what their career currency is, are well positioned to identify immediate opportunities for development and leverage. It also ensures that they are well equipped to either remain in, or recover control over their career circumstances.

Given that it can rise and fall just like any other currency, it is important to firstly understand what the attributes of career currency are:

  • Performance: Ability, Output, Motivation, Consistency, Ambition, Attitude
  • Potential: Past and Future Learning, Growth and Development, Ambition
  • Relationships: Internal Relationships (including peers, reports and management), External Networks, Influence, Collaboration
  • Fit: Communication, Resilience, Endeavour, Behaviour

Ultimately an accurate view of career currency enables individuals understand how their performance is regarded and what their potential opportunities and/or associated risks are. As a result, this self-awareness will enable individuals to make more highly informed career decisions by helping them understand:

    • Where are they are at and why?
    • What are their most pressing considerations?
    • What can be done to elevate or re-establish career value?
    • How can they best maximise career options?
    • What are the longer-term implications or opportunities?

Leaders who actively encourage their team members to develop a genuine level of awareness and ownership of their career currency stand to reap the benefits of high engagement,  performance and fulfilment.

If you feel that you or any members of your team would benefit from a career currency discussion please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Margot BLACK Signature

The Driving Force Of Connection

May 12th, 2017

“Connect, create meaning, make a difference, matter, be missed ”

– Seth Godin

We are all driven to belong and feel connected. Be-it with family and friends, the organisations we work for, or members of our local community, we all crave connection. Why? Because ultimately we want to be a part of something that opens up or broadens our world and helps us create purpose. Essentially connection helps to create meaning, opportunity and value.

Not belonging or knowing where we belong is a terrible feeling. It feels awkward, it hurts and it is alienating. It feels like wearing a scratchy old jumper that niggles away at us for the entire time we have it on. Yet invariably at some point in our careers we will all be faced with a crossroads of having to identify where we best belong and naturally connect in a way that allows us to fully contribute our talents. Sometimes this can occur due to forced situations such as redundancy or relocation and other times we simply feel that we have outgrown our current opportunity or organisation.

I am currently in the midst of planning a work trip to London and as such have found myself talking extensively with expats who have started to explore the idea of returning ‘home’. Many of these individuals have spent ten plus years building an impressive career in their chosen fields highlighted not only by a long list of signature achievements but often rapid rises in career progression into key leadership and C-Suite roles. Most are highly engaging, inspiring and driven individuals with a key desire to make a meaningful contribution for both themselves and the business they work for.

So what is stopping many of them from boarding the next plane home? In a nutshell it is fear of disconnection (both socially and professionally). Finding people and organisations they can meaningfully connect and engage with and who will value their prior knowledge and leverage their experience.

Connection and belonging are widely recognised as being two of our basic survival needs. Abraham Maslow whose well known work in the area of human motivation positions them as our third most fundamental need in his hierarchy of needs. William Glasser, another renowned American psychologist noted that we are driven by five genetic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun. To overlook our need for connection and belonging is not only detrimental to our personal lives but also our careers.

Seth Godin who is widely credited with coining the term ‘The Connection Economy’ describes how we are entering a new era that rewards value created by building relationships and fostering connections rather than assets and ‘stuff’ which was previously valued in the industrial era. Rather than simply valuing ‘more, better, faster’ the connection economy builds on who you know, what you know and how you influence outcomes through your connections. It recognises that ‘more, faster & better’ can really only be achieved through collaboration and facilitation with those around us.

Learning how to build, maintain and leverage diverse and authentic connections though is one of the key challenges that face many professionals today. Especially when they are outside of our familiar industry or geographic region. Connections that truly challenge our thinking; open the door to innovation and help create an agility and nimbleness to navigate the world we live in. Connections that help us future-proof our careers.

So what actions can we take to create meaningful connections that offer a mutual exchange of value and help us succeed both today and in the future? Seth Godin outlines four key pillars that underpin the connection economy.

  1. Co-ordination: you need to create a plan to meet with people who can offer value, insights, knowledge and experience. This means firstly identifying who they are, creating a purposeful reason to engage and then actioning it by making time in the diary.
  2. Trust: Identify and engage with people you can trust with your ‘story’. People whose interest and goal is to see you succeed.
  3. Permission: You need to give people permission to engage and share their insights, opinions and knowledge.
  4. Exchange of Ideas: True connection is always underpinned by the sharing of problems, ideas and solutions. This builds on the notion that we are smarter and more successful together rather than alone.

Learning how to initiate connection and not just respond to it is what will set us apart. Connection not just with our internal stakeholders but with our industry peers and leaders, the movers and the shakers and across our broader global community.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Margot BLACK Signature

Why A Sense Of Belonging Matters

May 2nd, 2017

‘Invisible threads are the strongest ties’

– Friedrich Nietzsche

We are all hard wired to want to connect and belong: To people, places, what we do and ways of life. Whilst there might be times that we don’t want to connect or belong to certain groups or people, none of us actively seek out disconnection or isolation as a way of living. Why? Because ultimately we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Something that allows us to create and contribute meaning, purpose, opportunity and value.

Not belonging or knowing where we belong is a terrible feeling. It feels awkward, it hurts and can be both alienating and self limiting. Yet invariably at some point in our lives and careers we will all be faced with a crossroads of having to identify where we best belong and naturally connect in a way that allows us to fully contribute our knowledge, skills and talents. Sometimes we outgrow people, places and situations and sometimes they outgrow us. This can be tricky and hard to navigate. In our careers this often presents when we have maximized our opportunity or through redundancies, restructures and relocations.

At a time when businesses and individuals are being challenged to operate in ever changing environments and to innovate and collaborate outside of known networks, this sense of belonging has never been more important. For it is when we feel as though we belong that we feel safe in stepping outside of our comfort zone and taking on new challenges.

There is a big difference though between belonging and fitting in. Brene Brown, author and researcher describes the difference between the two as freedom. ‘Fitting in’ she notes, is our ability to assess a situation and adapt who we are – personality and behaviours – in order to feel accepted. ‘Belonging’ is about freedom – freedom from having to change in order to be accepted and valued and respected for being who you are.

In her research she asked a group of students to describe the difference and their answers were insightful:

  • Belonging is being somewhere you want to be and they want you. Fitting in is being somewhere you really want to be and they don’t care one way or another.
  • Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.
  • I get to be me if I belong. I have to be like you to fit in.

Great leaders know the difference. They also recognize the subsequent challenge. Whilst it’s much easier to tell people they need to adapt in order to fit in with an organizational culture, they look for ways to help people bring their individual strengths and styles and look for ways to contribute to creating a diverse culture. This is not to suggest that we should create a culture of ‘anything goes’ but rather one where people have the opportunity to truly shine by owning what they do. It is about making sure that when we look for people and skill sets we make sure that we give them the freedom to bring themselves and their talents to the ‘table’.

So how do effective leaders create a sense of belonging? I would encourage you to consider the following 6 actions and how you might include them in your leadership repertoire:

Give Trust: Successful leaders understand that to gain trust you must also give it. Without both, true success cannot be achieved. They are able to know who they can trust, with what and when.

Cultivate responsibility and ownership: We all feel a stronger sense of connection and belonging to something when we know what we own and are responsible for. When we feel as though we belong to a team and organization it becomes ‘our team and organization’.

Listen: We all like to be heard. Great leaders seek feedback, listen and are highly responsive to what is appropriate and needed. Individuals understand that what they say matters and take accountability for their opinions, words and actions.

Educate on ‘the why’: We all like to understand how our work contributes to the broader picture and why it is so important. Great leaders help their people understand why what they do holds such value and how it contributes to team and organisational success.

Encourage diversity: Leaders who know how to leverage the individual strengths and capabilities of their team not only create opportunities for their people but also contribute to their overall success. Encouraging individuals to leverage not only their strengths but also their differences helps people understand how what they do matters.

Foster growth: Whilst great leaders accept their people for who they are, they also see their potential and help them grow and learn to become the best version of themselves.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.


Margot Andersen

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