Derek Irvine - Author Archive

What happens when work becomes a hobby?

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! — In the gig economy, a growing portion of people are working for reasons other than pay. That could mean big shifts for how companies motivate and attract workers in the future.

The gig economy has gotten quite a bit of press recently, as the popularity of technology-enabled platforms has made it easier than ever for people to find and get paid for gigs. The most popular options continue to be ride hailing and online tasks, but the sector is growing to include ad-hoc project work, professional services, and even personal help.

Although the gig economy is still relatively small in comparison to the traditional economy (approximately 8% or so), the dynamics of gig work could end up having a large impact on the ongoing evolution of the employer-employee relationship. Compounding the issue is the rise in automation and machine learning that is spreading from industrial settings to service and knowledge-based jobs.

As I wrote in this post on Compensation Cafe, one of the more striking shifts has been toward a growing segment of workers that participate in the labor market because of reasons other than pay – referred to as “hobbyists.” They seek out opportunities to socialize or have fun, or simply have a desire to do something productive with their time.

The idea of working human is deeply resonant with this approach to gig work – prioritizing a sense of belonging and meaning over pay (although adequate compensation is still vital). There are also implications for the changing landscape of how businesses and HR leaders will need to adapt to this shifting mindset among workers.

Below are some of the biggest implications, summarized from my original post, as some of these changes spread outside of the gig economy:

  • Increasing pressure on organizations to create positive work experiences that can attract and engage these workers, as a solution to high rates of churn and an unpredictable supply of talent over time.

  • Shifting focus away from traditional attractors, such as benefits and employee perks, to leverage more fluid and immediate aspects of their rewards portfolios, such as social recognition.

  • Continuing evolution of performance, balancing the need for one-off gigs with repeat or ongoing work, concurrent with a greater emphasis on continuous performance conversations.

What are some other implications for employees and employers when work becomes less like work and more like a hobby?

The Future of Compensation is Crowdsourced

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe blog logoRecognize This! – Shifting a portion of compensation to the crowd is one way companies can ensure greater effectiveness and alignment to performance.

The transformation of performance reviews is a topic increasingly top of mind for many HR professionals. One of the major driving forces is the changing nature of performance itself. Whether you view it through the lens of the gig economy, teams-based organizing, or the knowledge economy, performance in modern organizations is simultaneously becoming more fluid and complex.

Compensation practices have sometimes lagged behind these changes. Companies can easily find themselves in the position of just throwing money at the dual challenges of attracting and retaining talent, and also increasing motivation and engagement. All without seeing much actual return.

Moving forward, companies seeking to maintain a competitive advantage will need to find ways of more effectively leveraging compensation. Turning to the crowd can be one way that compensation and performance can be more aligned.

As I wrote in a post earlier this week on Compensation Cafe, crowdsourced compensation allows a company to move its investments closer to the contributions that individual employees are making.

Here are four reasons, excerpted from that post, making the case for companies to consider shifting more of their compensation portfolios to crowdsourced methods:

  1. It creates a strong connection for each employee, linking specific behaviors and accomplishments to overall group success and the broader organization.

  2. It creates a culture of performance where the emphasis is not only on what one contributes, but also on recognizing the contributions of others.

  3. It is better able to acknowledge the performance that comes from teams and groups, following the projects and teams that form and reform throughout the year.

  4. It helps an organization attract top talent, signaling the importance the organization places on creating a human workplace and creating an ownership mentality among employees for performance.

As performance itself becomes a more dynamic phenomenon, compensation practices must evolve to keep pace and allow the organization to sustain competitive advantage.

What are your thoughts on the changing nature of performance and compensation?

Don’t Make Your Employees ‘Prisoners’

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – Motivating employees requires more than compensation, which can create “prisoners.” Instead, companies need to emphasize a richer employee experience.

There is an interesting “iceberg” effect when it comes to employee motivation. Company leadership tends to focus on what is immediately visible, both for top talent and for severe underperformers for example. This focus can come at the expense of less visible, but no less impactful dynamics

What can get missed are the employees in the middle, an interesting proportion of whom show up and stay at their jobs despite being generally unmotivated, performing just enough to not bring attention to themselves. As I write on the Compensation Cafe, this group of employees was the subject of some recent research:

A report in the Wall Street Journal highlights a study by Aon Hewitt that looked at this group of employees. That study found 8% of employees fit into this profile of “prisoner” employee – defined as those “who stay at their jobs despite feeling unmotivated” – which was related to both longer tenure and salaries above market rates.

The article goes on to suggest that compensation is generally an ineffective lever in increasing motivation, and in fact may only contribute to increased feelings of being “held prisoner.” The net impact is a reduction in functional voluntary turnover, negatively affecting colleagues and sapping the company’s potential.

The solution is probably two-fold. For employees who are either unwilling or unable to become more motivated and productive performers, the business and HR need to have processes in place to identify and move those employees out. For everyone else, there is much more hope.

As I write in the full post, I argue that it may be helpful to leverage solutions that can create a more positive employee experience. Some of those solutions can include:

  • Developmental coaching and ongoing feedback can help to uncover barriers to that employee’s motivation and find solutions in the form of new roles or responsibilities.

  • Social recognition can also be a powerful motivator that builds on those conversations, amplifying examples of good performance and engaging a positive cycle of behaviors that align with the company’s core values.

  • Finally, a greater proportion of the overall compensation portfolio can be aligned towards real-time performance, creating more opportunity for motivation creation.

What are your thoughts on the best ways to transform “prisoner” employees into productive and energized contributors?

Compensation Cafe: Cultural Practices for a More Dynamic Workplace

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – Shifting away from too much hierarchy, organizations need to emphasize more dynamic and more human ways of working.

The pace of changes facing modern businesses is incredible. Many organizations are finding that those changes require an evolution in management philosophy- away from aspects that were successful during the Industrial Era and toward aspects that allow the organization to be more dynamic.

One of those groundswell transformations has played out in the very way that many businesses are organized. As Eric Mosely recent said in an interview with Forbes: “Organizations are changing. The way we work is changing. The top-down hierarchical approach is a dying legacy of the industrial era.”

I was thinking of that quote as I was reading some recent research on the potential pitfalls of clinging to those hierarchies. Summarizing that research in this recent post on Compensation Café, those pitfalls can include: (a) skewed levels of participation between leaders and other team members, (b) a failure to hear from the most knowledgeable or able contributor, and (c) a rush to agreement at the expense of more effective decisions.

How can we avoid those pitfalls, as the role of traditional hierarchy is replaced with more dynamic structures?

I propose three cultural practices, which are excerpted from the full post below:

  1. Leaders as coaches. While it is important for leaders to provide a clear and motivating vision of the direction the company or team should take, it is equally important to provide employees the autonomy to determine the specific path to that goal.

  2. Crowdsourced performance. Teams and organizations are successful when there is a shared understanding of who knows what, and who has which skills and abilities.

  3. Recognition of differences and diversity. Constructive debate often comes from diverse perspectives and the ability to give voice to those perspectives. Greater participation and empowerment, as mentioned above, both help employees feel they have a voice.

Each of these practices are supported through technology solutions that amplify and reinforce relationships between all employees. Solutions like social recognition, for example, acknowledge the unique role that each employee can play in achieving greater performance, sharing knowledge of best practices and experiences, and encouraging greater diversity in how performance in achieved.

How is hierarchy being transformed at your organization?

What’s Ahead for HR in 2017?

By Derek Irvine

doors-1613314_960_720Recognize This! – Trends in HR for the year ahead will emphasize empowerment, the employee experience, and ultimately a more human workplace.

What will some of the big themes be for HR leaders in the year ahead and how can we begin preparing for them? For some answers, I attended a session at HR Tech based on Josh Bersin’s new report, HR Technology Disruptions for 2017.

One of the key findings from that report is a much greater emphasis on empowerment and the whole work environment, increasing the robustness of how we think about employee engagement and cultural fit.  HR technology is playing a large and disruptive role in accelerating this philosophical shift, bringing together sophisticated people analytics, always-on self-servicing, and greater social connection.

These trends deeply resonate with the WorkHuman movement and community. We collectively stand at a pivotal moment for HR to integrate technology and humanity in creating a better workplace and a better employee experience.

It is clear that employees now expect much more out of work, and by extension, many of the HR systems that contribute to the work experience in some way. In Josh’s analysis, we can see how these trends have emerged across HR functions (see his Figure 2: Evolution of HR systems below).

bersin-model

Early technologies aimed to automate and integrate existing processes, streamlining most administrative tasks across benefits and compensation and talent management. Because of that streamlining and perhaps other factors, HR professionals and employees alike began to realize that existing processes were no longer working.

They needed to be fundamentally rethought and rebuilt.

Alongside cloud and mobile technologies, there is now an opportunity to rethink those processes and more fully engage the hearts and minds of employees. There is also an opportunity for HR to move at the speed of business, integrating these processes into the stream of everyday work.

Social recognition is one example that Josh mentions, which empowers all employees to recognize the contributions of others in real time, avoiding the costly process of top-down nominating committees and the pitfalls of having a small “winner’s circle.” Next-gen performance feedback is another area where this kind of empowerment is quickly growing, basing processes in ongoing growth-oriented conversations instead of annual forms or ratings.

Across these and the other emerging “apps that make work life better,” the notion of the workplace is expanding to include more human elements and meeting employee’s expectations for autonomy and control over those elements. These changes will result in a better employee experience, and as research by Globoforce’s WorkHuman Research Institute and the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute has shown, that will lead to better business results.

How is your company preparing for these more human trends ahead?

Off to HR Tech 2016!

By Derek Irvine

international-conference-1597531_960_720I’m packing my bags and heading to Chicago for the 19th Annual HR Technology Conference and Expo. It’s a fantastic show for seeing what the future of HR holds and what the leaders of the field are thinking about today. I always come back to the office with a ton of energy and ideas.

If you’ll be at the conference, I hope that you can stop by a pre-conference session I am hosting alongside Jay Dorio of IBM (October 4th at 2:30 pm). We will be sharing the results from a new global study conducted by the WorkHuman Research Institute at Globoforce, and the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute. The session will introduce a new Index and set of leadership and organizational practices that help to make the workplace more human.

I am truly excited about this research because it provides HR and business leaders with actionable ways to give employees a better experience at work and demonstrates why that can drive results. What can our organizations become when we think about human potential in terms of “giving” rather than “taking” (and take Adam Grant’s work to heart)?

Later in the week, also be sure to catch Globoforce’s Eric Mosley and David Sparkman of UnitedHealth Group (October 7th at 9:30 am). They will share the story of UHG’s cultural transformation, based on core values of integrity and collaboration, and driven by social recognition. It is yet another great example of how organizations can emphasize giving to achieve positive results.

I hope to see you there!

Closing the Skills Gap in a Human Era

By Derek Irvine

Creating heart at workRecognize This! – The practices that make a workplace more human are also the ones that can position a company to successfully adapt to future change.

Many companies are struggling to keep pace with emerging skills gaps. This is according to a recent interview in Harvard Business Review with Cathy Benko, Vice Chairman at Deloitte. She points to the need for companies to move away from industrial-era practices, focusing instead on more fluid and employee-driven approaches.

Reading through the interview, it struck me that many of her recommendations reflect the rising influence of the human era on how companies can manage and grow their people in a digital age.

One quotation stood out in particular: “If you can convince your employees that they are deeply involved—and central to—the reinvention of the company, you can in turn spur engagement, productivity, and mutual success.”

By creating a more human workplace, businesses and their employees can be better prepared to succeed within these ever changing business environments.

The process starts with empowering employees to take a wider view of their work. For example, practices that help employees create meaning and purpose within their current roles set the stage for a deeper level of involvement and engagement within the company.

But this needs to be combined with a sense of the growth opportunities available, within the current role and within future roles that emerge as the organization shifts strategies. Adding this perspective helps employees see how their work contributes over the long-term, as well as the short-term.

Still, a more human workplace is more than the sum of empowered employees and growth opportunities. It is also the strength and quality of the relationships between those people, which extend beyond the formal hierarchy. This aspect becomes increasingly important as professional development takes on a more “latticed” structure – comprised of many multi-directional and dynamic career moves.

In addition to the growth opportunities provided, these networks combine to create perceptions of how the organization interacts with its employees. Interactions that are defined by a level of trust, transparency, and mutual responsibility can be powerful drivers of a workforce that is fully aligned and prepared to meet any challenge.

Energy and motivation can also be carried by such relational networks, spreading throughout the organization. This type of ground-up mobilization of the workforce becomes a key enabler of continuous change and development efforts, keeping a workforce’s skills and capabilities up to date.

To meet the challenges of the future, organizations will need to pay increasing attention to these uniquely human aspects of work – individual pursuits of meaning and growth, as well as rich interactions capable of creating mutual alignment and rapid change.

What is your company doing to help employees adapt to the changing world of work?

Productive, But at What Cost?

By Derek Irvine

business peopleRecognize This! – Failing to address disruptive behavior by high-performers can actually hurt overall productivity. Leaders should focus on creating a culture that encourages everyone to contribute instead.

What should a leader do when one of their most productive employees is also the most disruptive?

It’s a challenging question that gets at the costs versus benefits of retaining that employee. Many of the costs might be difficult to fully measure. For example, a disruptive employee can have a negative impact that is felt across the organization, reducing the productivity of the entire group.

In these instances, it becomes clear that organizational success is less about a small winner’s circle of highly-performing mavericks. Rather, it is about creating a culture and employee experience where everyone can work to their full potential.

Anecdotally, this was precisely the case at a high-tech manufacturing firm in Pennsylvania. As a local newspaper described the situation, the disruptive employee at this company was not only the most productive, but also a supervisor of the most productive team. The level of output was high enough that leadership continued to retain the employee despite poor behavior.

The situation deteriorated, both as attempts to coach the employee were unsuccessful and greater emphasis was placed aligning employees to the core values of the company. It got so bad that coworkers began to actively avoid this employee by changing their own schedules. At that stage, productivity was no longer enough justification and the employee was terminated along with his immediate team.

Then, a funny thing happened. Productivity actually increased overall, with the largest differences among those working in closest physical proximity to the terminated team.

This outcome points to the impact that emotional and behavioral contagion can have in the workplace, and the underlying costs associated with those dynamics. It’s well known that employees can “catch” the moods of others, which can easily spread disruption and take energy away from the work that needs to be done. Behaviors can be contagious as well, if employees perceive that disruptive employees are being rewarded by the company, and adjust accordingly.

Avoiding these negative forms of interaction, while promoting positive forms, is crucial for leaders and HR teams alike. There are a number of solutions to help maximize the productivity of each worker.

At one end of the spectrum, individual efforts like coaching and performance feedback can be effective in changing the behavior of disruptive employees or teams, as well as minimizing their spread. Such efforts can also be integrated alongside organizationally-focused initiatives, such as social recognition, to align all employees behind a singular culture based in a set of shared core values. At the extreme, termination may be the option of last resort.

Regardless of the path chosen, leaders can expect greater organizational success by creating a human culture for the entire workforce, instead of catering to a few disruptive high-performers.

How has your own organization handled disruptive employees?

Compensation Cafe: An Active Approach to Core Values

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – A social recognition solution aligned to core values helps ensure that those values are lived by all employees and actively managed by leaders.

Have you thought about where the core values at your company came from?

In all probability, they were developed as a way to successfully drive a specific culture and achieve organizational success. A senior leadership team spent a lot of time thinking through all of those relationships and what they wanted the company to be.

Far from a straightforward task, developing core values can be challenging. It all comes down to ensuring the right balance between aspirations and reality of how work gets done. As I wrote in a recent post on the Compensation Cafe, core values can often fall short of the goals for which they were developed.

This is especially true when “those core values aren’t embedded in the everyday experience of work, when they are unrelated to what drives success for the organization, or both.”

As I write in the full post, there are two ways that social recognition, when aligned to core values, can help avoid these problems and ultimately increase the effectiveness of the organization.

First, recognition allows colleagues to recognize each other on the basis of living core values through daily behavior and examples of positive performance. It takes advantage of top-down as well as bottom-up dynamics to spread an understanding of what the core values mean to the organization.

Second, social recognition provides a valuable feedback mechanism that allows leaders to actively manage and improve how core values are being lived. The data created by recognition moments can provide leaders and managers with insights into which core values are being recognized, how often, and how their definition may change over time or across locations.

Social recognition provides a way for companies to both ensure that their core values are being lived, and that they contribute to the success of the organization.

Does your company effectively leverage its employee recognition efforts to support core values?

A Mandate for Positivity?

By Derek Irvine

signature-962354_960_720Recognize This! – Encouraging positivity at work can be challenging, but is achievable through a strong culture of recognition and making work human.

It’s no surprise that positive workplaces can help contribute to a whole host of beneficial results, from better health to greater productivity. The challenge that many companies face is how to go about creating a more positive and human-centered workplace.

It’s often a goal that requires walking on a fine line between promoting a positive culture and ensuring that positivity remains authentic and unforced. For many leaders, it boils down to one of the core questions behind a recent piece in The New Yorker: “Can you actually create positivity by mandating it?”

The short answer, after reviewing the available research, is a qualified yes.

Leaders can create positivity, but not through generalized policies or broad directives. Instead, it needs to be fostered through calling attention to authentic and specific examples of leaders and coworkers bringing positivity to their own work and work relationships.

The cumulative power of these moments, amplified through social recognition, can help drive a culture of positivity and ultimately, working human.

What makes this approach successful is striking the right balance between establishing expectations while allowing for individual flexibility in how to meet those expectations. Past research, for example, has found that rules or norms in this middle area are optimally effective – neither too vague to hamper action nor too prescriptive to be demotivating.

Social recognition hits that sweet spot. At a company-wide level, it provides a shared framework that aligns expectations behind a set of core values. Within each unit or location, leaders and coworkers are empowered to recognize the specific behaviors that are locally relevant but still deliver upon those shared expectations. The combination captures the unique way each person can contribute to the purpose of the overall organization and find meaning in their work.

An additional benefit stems from the collective awareness that is created by those recognition moments, of the number of different ways that employees have brought positivity into the workplace and been recognized for their contributions. Rather than forcing a single exemplar that may not fit everyone’s personality or style, employees can see how their own personal approaches to positive work can fit into the same culture.

Finally, social recognition can help connect this positivity to the bottom-line, ensuring that employees are motivated and energized to contribute their best selves at work, living the core values that drive the organization forward.

What does your organization do to help you bring more positivity to work?