Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

I attended the opening session, keynoted by Hillary Rodham Clinton. I didn’t write it up immediately, as i wanted a little time to reflect, and also to report on the “buzz” that would emerge.

I expected a loud, positive “buzz”. Mot so. The buzz, while positive, was not loud. I guess it boiled down to a perception that it was a good, well researched presentation. Expectations were high, and Hillary did fine. Just not an earth-shattering keynote.

What did i scribble while she talked?

Compliments. “HR knows what it takes to provide workers with the flexibility to care for children and aging parents. You also know what must be done to provide affordable health care to everyone.”

Big applause on health care.

No remarks on run for prez – she sure looks presidential in sincere blue suit.

Pointed out big importance of womens issues in the workplace, globally.

The best part of the presentation was 10 minutes of Q&A with SHRM CEO Henry Jackson.

Key points:

1. We’ve got to fix immigration. We educate students and then don’t let them stay. It’s a key economic issue.

2. Leadership is a team sport.

3 You can’t win if you don’t show up.

4. A whisper can be louder than a shout

5 Follow the trend lines, not the headlines

In closing, CEO Hank pressured her to return to our conference next year. She sidestepped that one nicely.



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Halfway through the strategic HR presentation frim Willis, and a problem just popped up.

The first points from Jennifer Barton were fine – she pointed out that stategues are being updated every year, not five. True. She explained that HR strategy was nested into Human Capital strategy, all of which were nested into Organizatuonal Strategy. All fine.

Then Debbi Davidson took the podium and hit a few personal tripwires.

She defined a single type of “High Performing Culture”. A very “Theory X” style, as McGregor would say. Debbi drscribed high performing culture as “an agressive and deliberate effort by senior leaders to focus on results. Anything that is not producing results must be redesigned.”

Wow. I’m all for efficiency, but the metrics most senior execs use for measuring hr are way out of date. Problem.

Then, there was this: “High performing cultures have high engagement survey scores”.

In my experience, not so much. You get high scores from the content and happy mid-pack. High performers are often very entrepreneurial, pushing the envelope. See the problem? High performers do NOT score well. They are pushy critical thinking types.

Anyway, i need to end on a good note. The core message was good.

1. Do a total reward strayegy
2. Focus on a high performing culture
3 Get Learning and Development right
4 Workforce planning. Gotta look ahead
5 Rewards and Recognition must align with the vision

That’s the summary. Off to the general seasion with the guy from Tom’s shoes.

I want some Starbucks, but the line is long.


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OK, this is too good.

The AP has just aired some “dirty laundry” about management issues – no surprise there – but it is the organization that is unusual.  It’s an HR beef from inside Al-Qaida.

It seems a mid-level operative has been blowing off meetings, not filing expense reports on time, not answering the boss’ phone calls, yadda yadda.  As the story says, “After years of trying to discipline him, the leaders of al-Qaida’s North African branch sent one final letter to their most difficult employee. Most of all, they claimed he had failed to carry out a single spectacular operation, despite the resources at his disposal.

The employee, international terrorist Moktar Belmoktar, responded the way talented employees with bruised egos have in corporations the world over: He quit and formed his own competing group.”  You can read the whole letter here.  The photo below is purported to be the offending middle manager.

For those of us who work in HR, how refreshing to realize that global terror organizations are, in a very basic way, as human and flawed as the organizations all around us.


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We’re a few weeks away from a Supreme Court decision on the PPACA, and the policy wonks and news readers have gone pretty silent on the issue. A big part of the issue is that nobody has a clue on how the Supremes will decide, and nobody wants to feel dumb a week later.
Therefore, may I offer a simple tool that we can all understand?  Here is a “Bracketology” tool that can simply explain what will happen for each of the combinations of 6 variables.  Click here for the link to the tool.

They’ve decided weeks ago, but have not shared their wisdom yet…



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I have learned a few basic truths about CFOs. They like efficiency and accountability, dislike making snap decisions, and are always looking for a better forecasting model. They also appear to prefer cars with good gas mileage.

For some of these same reasons, they generally mistrust the metrics offered by Human Resources about the state of the organization’s human assets. This may soon change, based on the first draft of a comprehensive Human Capital Financial Statement that was recently printed in CFO magazine.

While the ink is still wet on the draft, the impact is starting to ripple through both the HR and Financial camps. You can read the draft here – http://tinyurl.com/6vs9jx9. If you click on the link, pay careful attention to the small link to the spreadsheet model on page 2. If you miss it, you can jump to it here – http://tinyurl.com/6sv9msa. Examining the data categories on the spreadsheet will give you a fast snapshot of the work that has been done.

This is big. Finance has long been frustrated by “soft” HR metrics, with little thought going in to the alignment of what is measured to the core mission of the organization. Worse yet, key decisions may be driven by bad data, with bad results. The wrong type of people keep getting hired, or wellness programs are launched that do not change behaviors in a meaningful way. By agreeing to a more “forward looking” set of metrics that are measuring reliable predictors, better feedback loops can support better decisions.

Simply put, having a functional Human Capital Financial Statement can become a significant competitive advantage. I understand that financial statements by nature are backward-looking, and this work is trying to offer data that anticipates (and plans for) risks. While this is not a finished work, I am pleased that the conversation is finally beginning about what “dials” should be on the “dashboard”.

Let me give a couple of examples that might help clarify the importance of getting the numbers right. Many traditional metrics for HR are well accepted, but may not be that useful. For example, it is often thought that measuring the rate of employee turnover is a high quality metric, as it is easy to calculate and common sense says that lower turnover is better. Not so fast.

Most organizations do not track the data needed to show the turnover of high performers vs. low performers. You WANT a high turnover rate on the low performers, right? This means you must align the performance management system with the turnover data. More advanced organizations are starting to link low turnover rates of high performers to higher bonuses of individual managers and supervisors. Behavior rewarded is behavior repeated.

Taking the example further, in the Human Capital Financial Statement, there is a “High Performing Employee Differential” that enumerates the impact high performers have on an organization. If the performance management system is measuring the number and quality of high performance employees, then the metric can reliably appear on the dashboard. Is the wellness program paying off by helping motivate high performance? Clearly, the accuracy of the metric comes down to the quality of the data. It’s all connected.

I have often been puzzled by the willingness of HR departments to stick with meaningless metrics for decades. Measuring the speed of hiring, rather than the quality of the new hires. Measuring the turnover rate, not the quality of what is leaving. Measuring the head count, not the productivity. Measuring participation, not behavior change. And so on.

The Human Capital Asset Statement allows organizations the ability to look at human capital as a value producing factor; not just a cost. Trending the value contribution of the workforce during 2009, a difficult year, would have given great insight into the jobs and facilities that were adding value. You may know about the importance of critical high visibility roles, but be blind to the impact of hidden factors that impact client retention and profitability. In a good Human Capital Financial Statement, these should be measured and brought to light.

This is exactly where we are starting to head in this brave, new world of better metrics. My final point is the significant impact this will eventually have on equity markets and investments. Organizations frequently state that employees are their most valuable asset, yet publicly traded organizations provide little information on this “most valuable asset” to investors or the public. The Securities and Exchange Commission requires extensive disclosure regarding all major assets including financial, physical, and technological/intellectual property. However, they do not require disclosure of what is, for most organizations, their largest annual operating expense. Human capital and talent management are differentiators of success and sources of competitive advantage.

In a future world, human capital will finally be reported as a part of public financial statements. This will be big.

I work in HR, and we HR Professionals have known that talent management and wellness is important for quite some time. We have worked hard to get our recruiting, learning, total compensation, performance management, engagement, and other practices in order over the past decade.

With Human Capital Financial Statements, I hope we finally see a payoff.

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Ready for the new year?

In         Finance                                             Out     Accounting

In         Individual Health                          Out   Group Wellness

In         Fast Feedback                                Out   Annual Performance Review

In        Rational Portions                          Out   Super Size

In         Driving in silence                          Out   Constant Connectivity

In         Flip Chart                                         Out   Powerpoint

In       Personal Accountability               Out   Mob Behavior

In      Modern Family                                   Out   Anything Kardashian

In       Newt Gingrich                                     Out   Newt Gingrich

In      In and Out Burger                               Out   McDonald’s

We all need to take a longer view on things...

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Used to be that we were really touchy about nationalism, especially here in the Midwest.  I think it was mostly driven by the auto industry, but it was pretty pervasive.  I recall sign demanding that any foreign car not be parked in a particular plant parking lot.  My favorite was at the Connersville  Ford plant, specifying that all “Non-Ford” cars be parked across the street.  I happily parked my Volvo fight by the front door, only to be directed to the punishment corner…they did not care that Ford owned Volvo, at that moment.  (Now the Chinese own the Swedes…)

Kokomo, Indiana was a hot spot of this thinking, at least until Chrysler went through two European owners…

What percentage of American made is permitted?

So, it was a twinge of nostalgia that I felt when I drove past this sign at a company that recently went out of business.

How about cars from Canadian or Mexican assembly plants – all are in the Americas…
Face it.  We’ve all become global – and while there are good and bad effects, it’s the way the economy is.  Capitalism rewards and punishes all…

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Now, it starts to get interesting.  As defined in the PPACA, the rules for building and running an insurance exchange are emerging.  The Feds (aka the Department of Health and Human Services)  have released the first major guidance document.  Want a peek under the hood?  Here is their web page… http://tinyurl.com/5uayxyq or click here if your link isn’t working.

There are 2 states with Exchanges up and running – Massachusets and Utah.  I’m going to do some research into the Utah experiment and report back…

The dawn of the Exchanges

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Welcome back!  Now, for the next drop in the bucket…

Rhetorical question – wouldn’t you love to have a quick guide to what is happening and when in health insurance reform?  I just found exactly that – click here.  It just takes some time and distance to make complex things clear…which is anther reason I am glad I work at Gregory & Appel.

Looking forward to a very interesting 2011.

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Just got news that a Federal District Court Judge( Henry E. Hudson, a George W. Bush appointee) has ruled the individual mandate in the PPACA unconstitutional.

So, why does this not matter?

He is the third district court judge to rule, and is the first to rule against the PPACA as enacted.  Ah, but here is the catch – He ruled against the government, but he didn’t stop the reform bill from going into force.  He refused to grant an injunction against the legislation’s continued implementation. The construction of the bill’s infrastructure will continue.

The plaintiffs in this case were asking that the entire bill be struck down, which the judge did not do.  He only ruled against the individual mandate, which is a helpful part of the bill but not the core operational issue.  I am not a legal type, even though I work in Insurance, but it appears clear that the language the judge chose to use sharply limits the scope of the court’s action.

The last word on all of this will be in the big marble building just East of the Capitol – the Supreme Court. The fact that the various courts are sniping at each other ensures that the Supreme Court will be the final decider.  As of now, if you are keeping score, the range of opinions is from “the law is fine” to “the individual mandate is not fine, but the rest of the law is.”   Who knows.  It may get partially repealed and Republicans may  block any attempts at a fix, but it’s a far cry from a world in which the Supreme Court strikes down the whole of the health-care law. 

Stay tuned – in about two years…

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