Thursday, December 12, 2013

Year End Strategic Planning - A Meditation

A good practice for executives is to stop long enough to look back on the year and determine what you intended, what changed, and where you arrived. 

I like to meet with my clients during fourth quarter budget planning to do this serious thinking. We sit down together to review the year that has passed and examine the state of the company. We look at what worked and what didn't work, and what we learned from each success and failure. It is a quiet time, often a reflective time. A meditation.

From this insight, we can plan forward. We reflect on the business strategy and assess the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as it relates to the most critical phases in the talent lifecycle:
  • Onboarding, integrating and developing new economy workers into organizations
  • Developing existing leaders to prepare them to move up, take on more responsibility, and guide the organization's growth
  • Planning for the succession of key positions by defining future state roles and developing talent pipelines to succeed outgoing generations
From here we can set appropriate goals that will achieve and accelerate the results of the business strategy. We prioritize our objectives and initiatives for the upcoming year, what they will cost, whether we have the right resources, and how many steps it will take to implement these goals.

Once we have approved budgets, we then go over the goals and initiatives that we outlined in our planning. We edit those goals to align with the budget we have been given, ensuring realistic expectations. The result is that we are able to determine what we can realistically and economically achieve to drive significant change and competitive advantage over next 12 months.

Some examples of goals that my clients are setting for the upcoming year revolve around:

  • Recruiting and retaining top talent in the face of increasing talent shortages
  • Improving the accountability, reliability and performance of younger workers
  • Increasing the ownership and commitment to corporate goals of midlevel managers
  • Developing leadership competencies among high potential employees at all levels
  • Executing the smooth succession plans for outgoing leadership
  • Empowering communication and productivity across all generations and business units
This quiet review of the year and strategic planning for the next develops discipline and strategic oversight for the organization, and, over time, becomes knowledge. This is deep knowledge: of ourselves, of the companies we serve, of the industries in which we work, and how all of this changes (or does not) over time, year after year.

This disciplined practice is also what drives and advances thought leadership and professional development in the Human Capital field. I recommend it.

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Upcoming Webinar: Succession Planning for the New Economy: Growing Your High Potential Pipeline for the Roles That Matter Most
Hosted by the Human Capital Institute
Live webinar on December 17 at 12:00pm PST
Webinar recasts on December 18 & 19

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Upcoming Onboarding & Succession Planning Webinars

I am pleased to offer two webinars in December: one on effective strategies for onboarding "new economy" workers and another on growing high potential talent pipelines for effective succession planning

For more details or to register, click on the links below.

Hosted by Business Management Daily
Live webinar on December 11 at 10:00am PST

Hosted by the Human Capital Institute
Complimentary live webinar on December 17 at 12:00pm PST
Multiple complimentary webinar recasts on December 18 & 19

For further questions or insight on either topic, contact me directly at

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Disaster & Gratitude

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am feeling grateful for the basics: health, shelter, food, water, love.  

The need for disaster relief to provide those basics this holiday season is HUGE. 

As a result, the Interchange Group is donating EARLY this year, and in lieu of holiday gifts and cards, supporting various projects of the GlobalGiving Foundation, a nonprofit online marketplace that connects donors to causes and countries directly. Receiving top ratings by Guidestar and Charity Navigator, GlobalGiving centers on transparency, allowing donors to view and monitor the impact of their financial contributions.

Here are a few of the many disaster relief efforts to which you can donate directly through GlobalGiving:
  • Typhoon Haiyan Survivors' Food Security Project
  • Hurricane Sandy Reconstruction
  • Relief Fund for Colorado Flooding Survivors
I encourage you to choose a cause to support this holiday season that is meaningful to you.

Thank you. Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Sunday, October 27, 2013

10 Pitfalls to Avoid When Onboarding New Employees

96% of companies believe employees make their decision to stay or leave within the first six months of employment. If you are going to spend money and time acquiring top talent and paying them to work, why not prepare them to succeed and stay?

There is no one-size-fits all approach to employee onboarding. Every situation is unique and an effective onboarding program will have direct alignment to a company's long-term strategy and goals. However, the following pitfalls to avoid apply to all conditions:
  1. Not having a clean and ready workstation on Day One
  2. Assuming a new hire cannot be productive in his or her job from Day One
  3. Cramming 20 hours of information into four dull hours of orientation
  4. Neglecting the importance of cultural adaptation to the new hire's success
  5. Ignoring the onboarding needs of mid- and senior level employees
  6. Relying on organizational charts, rather than cultural norms and behavior, to explain lines of communication
  7. Failing to address generational needs and differences in the onboarding process
  8. Starting new hires when their supervisor is absent
  9. Running a disorganized program
  10. Adopting a "sink or swim" approach because it worked for you!
Employees who feel challenged, empowered and acknowledged during the first year of employment will reward companies with loyalty and productivity. Those who feel overlooked or marginalized will eventually leave for opportunities that better meet their needs. To what extent does your onboarding process fit the needs and expectations of your top talent?

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Monday, September 9, 2013

Tailor Your Onboarding Strategy to Each Generation

The Impact of Generational Differences on New Employee Onboarding
Effective new hire onboarding will be critical for employee retention and engagement in the future as demographic shifts significantly alter the talent landscape. America's 80 million Baby Boomers will be succeeded in their roles by a cohort (Generation X) that is half their size, intensifying the competition among employers for top talent. Compounding the situation are the Millennials, representing the youngest generation in the labor market and entering the workforce with drastically different expectations for their careers, including how their employers treat and develop them during their first year on the job. Failure to properly engage each generation up front will prove costly for organizations.

To stay competitive, companies must tailor their new employee onboarding strategies to each generation.

Onboarding Baby Boomers
Baby Boomers have always worked and played hard, often competing with their numerous peers to get ahead and display outward symbols of success. Their values center on professional identity and prestige while staying youthful and healthy. When integrating new Baby Boomers employees into the company, focus on:
  • Professional Renewal – Will they have the opportunity to recalibrate their career goals and skills?
  • Organizational Hierarchy – Do they understand the organizational hierarchy to effectively navigate professional relationships?
  • Performance Management Process – Do they know how they will be evaluated and by whom?
Onboarding Generation Xers
Generation Xers grew up with divorced, dual-income, late-working parents. Although their work ethic is strong, they are unwilling to spend every waking minute in the office at the expense of their personal lives. Gen Xers want their employers to recognize them on the basis of merit and efficiency, not the amount of time spent in their chairs. To onboard them for long term success, emphasize:
  • Access to Information – Do they know where and how access necessary information about their job and the company?
  • Relevant Resources – Do they have the most pertinent resources to perform?
  • Clear Priorities & Metrics – Are they clear on the performance metrics that the company and their bosses will be measuring?
Onboarding Millennials
Millennials are accustomed to and expect frequent encouragement and acknowledgement. Having grown up in a 24/7 world of global events and communication, they are motivated to solve large-scale problems and see blurred boundaries between work and the rest of their lives. To onboard this generation, provide them with:
  • Community – Do they feel bonded to their peers, bosses, and subordinates as colleagues and friends?
  • Corporate Culture – Are they clear on and enthusiastic about the company's culture and values?
  • Professional Growth – Do they perceive their supervisors and HR partners as mentors who actively guide them in their careers?
Generational differences in values, motivations and behavior directly inform perceptions about work and the workplace. Thoughtful new employee onboarding procedures are vital to a company's bottom line, and can succeed if organizations are willing to adopt a strategic approach tailored to each generation.

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Monday, July 8, 2013

Succession Planning, Part 2 – 5 Key Strategies

This is Part 2 of a series on effective succession planning. Part 1 focused on The 3 Main Tenets of Succession Planning. This post provides 5 key strategies for successful execution.

Succession planning is a dynamic process that takes place through a series of robust conversations about the future, which in turn develop the best organizational capacity to meet key business objectives. Companies need smart people involved who understand the goals of the business and are able to have productive, strategic dialog about the talent pipeline, and are able to execute on key decisions. Here are 5 key strategies will help to ensure a successful outcome:

  1. Align succession planning with strategic planning - Companies must include talent planning in their strategic planning practices to survive and thrive in the 21st century.
  2. Ensure senior leadership participation and training - HR should play a facilitative role in succession planning, but the real responsibility for managing the talent pipeline falls on senior management.
  3. Consult with potential successors - Validate assumptions about the ambitions and expectations of employees, especially those from younger generations, to deter false senses of security about the future.
  4. Break down organizational silos - Work to create company-wide teams and rewards, because it is too difficult to provide real development opportunities for employees when silos exist and managers hoard their star performers.
  5. Update plans regularly - Incorporate regular reviews of succession plans into strategic planning and management meetings to ensure ongoing relevancy with future talent needs.
A company's success and legacy across future generations depend upon new approaches to succession planning. My whitepaper, The 3 Main Tenets of Effective Succession Planning, addresses this topic in depth. Feel free to download it or contact me directly for more insight and guidance.

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Succession Planning, Part 1 – The 3 Main Tenets

75% of executives view succession planning as the top human capital challenge that could derail their company’s attainment of key strategic business objectives. Yet demographic shifts, globalization, emerging communication technologies and rising economic uncertainty have changed the playing field and altered what is required of 21st century leaders.  Existing succession planning models have not kept up.

The 3 Main Tenets of Effective Succession Planning
Companies with succession planning systems in place are set up to fail by complex processes. To ensure the ongoing success of the business and its legacy across future generations, organizations must adhere to these three main tenets of succession planning.
  1. Succession planning should be a program focused on keeping talent in the pipeline. It is an ongoing process of preparation, not a one-time process of pre-selection.
  2. Succession planning should be uncomplicated. The more complex it is, the less likely it will succeed.
  3. Succession planning should extend beyond the top executive level to all tiers of the organization that play a pivotal role in the success of the business.
Part 2 of this series will focus on the 5 Key Strategies for Effective Succession Planning. To learn more now about the critical requirements and pitfalls of succession planning, watch, Building the Talent Pipeline to the 21st Century, or download any of existing succession planning white papers and resources directly from my website. 

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Monday, May 20, 2013

Gen X Bosses vs. Millennial Employees - Part 2

This is part 2 of a series on the contentious dynamic between Generation X bosses and Millennial direct reports. Part 1  focused on the Millennial generation and provided Gen X bosses with strategies to manage their Millennial employees. This post focuses on the Gen X experience and provides Millennials with tactics for managing their Gen X bosses.

Here are some strategies for Millennials to manage their Gen X Bosses more effectively:

Demonstrate Initiative:  Gen Xers were "latchkey kids" used to doing things on their own without supervision.  They expect the same of their direct reports. 
  • Show your boss that you can solve problems with minimal guidance
  • If you complete an assignment, ask for additional work to provide value
  • Accept that sometimes you have to work late to complete projects
Follow Up:  Growing up, Gen Xers became risk-averse from the constant uncertainty of the energy crisis, the Cold War and AIDS. To mitigate threats at work, Gen Xers need to know that deadlines are being met. 
  • Provide your boss with progress reports at regular intervals
  • If you make a request and don't hear back, follow up to keep the project on deadline
  • Let your boss know immediately if you won’t meet a deadline and what you plan to do about it
Mind Their Time: Gen X managers balance competing demands to meet business goals. Under constant pressure to "do more with less" they often don't have time for daily coaching to their direct reports. 
  • Consolidate questions to email or scheduled meetings instead of interrupting your boss multiple times a day
  • Be patient if your boss hasn't responded quickly to your email
  • Avoid phone/tablet use during meetings with your boss to show active listening
My whitepaper, Gen X Bosses vs. Millennial Workers – The Contentious Divide, addresses this topic in depth and provides targeted solutions for Gen X bosses and Millennial employees for improving performance and retention. Feel free to download it or contact me directly for more insight and guidance.

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Monday, April 29, 2013

Gen X Bosses vs. Millennial Employees - Part 1

A lively panel, "Millennials Speak Out: How to Manage the Gen X Boss," at last month's SXSW conference exposed the antagonistic attitudes between Gen X bosses and their Millennial direct reports. At the heart of this conflict are two distinct sets of generational values, motivations and behaviors that have become contentious, critical obstacles to performance and retention.

Here are some strategies for Gen X bosses to manage their Millennial employees more effectively:

Stay Connected:  Connected to parents and peers through close personal relationships and social media, Millennials are successful when they have an ongoing support and feedback system at work. 
  • Connect frequently with Millennials using 2-minute debriefs or email/IM check-ins to answer questions and provide feedback.
  • Mentor Millennials to offer guidance and reinforce company culture and norms.
  • Take time to recognize Millennials by name on a daily basis.
Make it Meaningful:  Millennials want work to benefit society. They are more likely to perform (and less likely to quit!) if they feel their work has meaning and is connected to a bigger picture. 
  • Explain the “why” behind your decisions - Don’t wait for them to ask!
  • Acknowledge Millennials’ work and its significance to the overall project/company. 
  • Provide (and participate in!) social activities to foster community.
Enable Teamwork: Millennials are peer oriented and likely to feel isolated and disengaged from their work when they can’t collaborate with their boss. 
  • Promote cross-functional teamwork and communication to complete assignments.
  • Include Millennials in brainstorming and goal setting sessions for their projects.
  • Provide technology to connect Millennials to their network and information.
Part 2 of this series will focus on providing strategies for Millennial employees to manage their Gen X bosses more effectively.  Stay tuned!

My whitepaper, Gen X Bosses vs. Millennial Workers – The Contentious Divide, addresses this topic in depth and provides targeted solutions for Gen X bosses and Millennial employees for improving performance and retention. Feel free to download it or contact me directly for more insight and guidance.

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Should You Ditch Your Performance Reviews?

Last year Adobe Systems abolished performance reviews, citing employee complaints about the existing appraisal process coupled with the company's need to retool its talent management practices to compete in the digital marketing space. The announcement reflects a growing sentiment among human capital experts that formal reviews do little to provide the type of feedback that employees need. And let's face it, most managers loathe the process.

I'm in favor of ditching the type of performance reviews that are used in over 95% of the companies I've observed. They are outdated tools for the New Economy, and in most cases the amount of organizational time, energy and money spent each year on the process far outweighs the purported benefits.

Other options exist for providing employees with effective feedback, development and rewards. I've written about these options in my new whitepaper, "Working Without Performance Reviews - An Alternative Approach." Feel free to download it or contact me for additional insight and expertise.

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Monday, February 11, 2013

New Hire Onboarding - Practical Advice for Boosting Performance & Retention

It's Day One. Do you know where your new employee is?

You work so hard to make a favorable impression on job candidates. But what happens when they show up for work? How are you handling the employee's first hour, first day, first week and first months on the job?

The truth is, most employers devote less time to planning their onboarding procedures than they do their holiday party ... a mistake that costs companies greatly in bottom line and reputation.

A "sink or swim" onboarding process doesn't work, especially for younger generations who place a high value on structured employment procedures. What's more, research shows that employees who are part of a structured onboarding program are 69% more likely to remain with the company after three years than those who are not. 

Every organization has a new hire onboarding process, whether it's managed or not. What impact do your actions have on productivity and retention? Isn't it time you found out? 

For additional insight and strategies on this topic, register for my February 19 webcast, New Hire Onboarding: Practical Advice to Boost Performance & Retention, hosted by Business Management Daily.

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy