How Google’s People Analytics Helped Create a Great Workplace

As Steffen Maier pointed out in a recent issue of Entrepreneur, most companies use annual satisfaction surveys to measure the engagement of their employees.

Many HR managers believe that such surveys provide a snapshot to assess how happy their employees are in their workforce. But do these surveys really work? A number of HR leaders now question the accuracy and usefulness of these annual surveys.

According to a survey by HRmarketer and Impact Achievement Group, 48% of all respondents did not believe that these surveys provide an accurate and honest assessment. In contrast, only 31% of the respondents believed that the surveys are accurate.

The article featured how Google approaches its employee surveys. Their HR team, now known as the People’s Operation Team, uses a data driven approach to fine-tune different aspects of its processes. This allows them to align the feedback from employees with its unique work culture.

Unlike many companies whose apathetic employees do not answer the surveys, Google reports that 90% of its employees participate on average.

Google uses people analytics that mix qualitative and quantitative data, so that leaders can thoroughly analyze the inner-culture dynamics of the company. One of the key studies using people analytics to improve Google’s workplace is described below:

Project Oxygen

Although surveys indicated that most employees at Google have a strong aversion to hierarchy. People Operations used Project Oxygen to analyze the performance ratings of managers and the feedback from employee surveys. Then they cross-matched the results with metrics of productivity.

The found that great managers led to teams that were more productive and engaged. From this, the HR managers developed The Oxygen Eight Behaviors for Great Managers:

  • Empower the team and do not micromanage
  • Be a good coach
  • Be productive and results-oriented
  • Express interest and concern for the success and personal well-being of team members
  • Help with career development
  • Be a good communicator
  • Use your technical skills to advise
  • Have a vision

This study did not prove that managers were unnecessary. Instead, it showed that mid-level leaders were necessary to create the conditions that led other employees to thrive.

However, it did find that some management traits were in opposition to what Google’s employees needed from their manager. Micromanaging ranked number one on this list.

Google now uses this list to ID and train its leaders from within the ranks of the company. Mangers accept these standards more readily, since they came from data-based roots.

Human Resource Departments Embrace the Role of Coach Rather than Cop

The SHRM featured excerpts from an upcoming book by attorney and consultant Jathan Janova who “shares colorful stories” from his 25 years of experience trying to keep companies out of court.

One of the excerpts is called “Converting HR from Cop to Coach.” In it, an HR director called Mary had a meeting with Morton—a senior executive. The two discussed how to get rid of an employee considered deadwood.

The employee, Jerry, underperformed for decades despite performance improvement plans, coaching, and even alternative supervisors. Mary asked to see the documentation which wasn’t current, while Janova summarized Morton’s arguments in favor of terminating Jerry’s employment.

Janova then asked the four questions of a risk-analysis checklist:

  • Would the termination be procedurally fair?
  • Would it be consistent?
  • Would it be substantively fair?
  • Are there any complicating factors?

He pointed out that the termination would be substantively fair since the company had provided repeated opportunities to improve. However, Janova pointed out that there could be an issue with procedural fairness, since the documentation lacked adequate notice that Jerry would be fired.

Consistency could be another issue, since firing him would not jive with the disciplinary procedures listed in the company’s handbooks. Plus, there was a strong legal risk that Jerry would sue. He was 40 years old and likely to be replaced with a younger employee. However, to continue tolerating Jerry’s poor performance would come at a high cost to the business.

After this discussion, the company decided on a middle-of-the-read approach. They created an extremely comprehensive performance improvement plan. They met with Jerry and pointed out their many failed attempts to improve his performance.

Ultimately, they stated that it would be best for Jerry to find other work and offered him severance benefits. Otherwise, he would go on a “last-chance corrective action plan” and receive no severance benefits if he were terminated.

Jerry came back the next morning and took the severance. He signed a release and quietly left the company.

An unexpected benefit of this situation is that the managers now let the company’s HR department know much sooner about issues with employee relations. Knowing early gives a lot more flexibility, and there is no more tug of war between management and HR.   Mary now makes risk-analysis a regular practice and functions more as a coach than a cop.

FSU HR Professionals Discuss Unique Challenges in Higher Education at a National Conference

HR professionals in higher education face some unique challenges, since most universities offer tenure. The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR), a dedicated association for HR professionals at colleges and universities, addresses issues like how to maintain pay equity when hiring new faculty who are likely to be highly prominent in their field.

The CUPA-HR met recently in DC. More than 1,000 HR managers from colleges and universities attended this year’s conference.

Four members of the HR team from Florida State University (FSU) gave advice to their colleagues from around the country at a DC meeting in September. The FSU representatives included:

  • Christine Conely – Associate Director of the Office of HR
  • Phaedra Harris – Director of HR Operations
  • Rebecca Peterson – Assistant Director for Faculty Relations
  • Renisha Gibbs – Assistant VP of Human Relations

Gibbs and Peterson spoke about “Balancing Equity with Performance” for faculty salaries. The speakers gave strategies on how to retain the best faculty despite increased salaries for professors across the country. HR professionals often face two particular complications when deciding faculty salaries:

  • Compression – Similar pay rates despite different levels of experience or qualifications
  • Inversion – Senior educators earn lower salaries than less experienced faculty members

The presentation encouraged senior HR managers to work with administrative leaders to ensure that their compensation strategy aligns with the institution’s goals and strategies. Their sentiments echoed those of high-level administrators at Florida State who believe that future success at the University will be ensured by maintaining a top-class faculty.

In addition, Harris and Conely spoke about “The Electronic Employee Blueprint” and offered practical guidance to modernize business practices. These HR directors stressed that switching from paper-based to electronic-based practices serves as one of the main ways that HR can keep business practices up-to-date and efficient.

Conely remarked that being selected for two presentations demonstrated that FSU is “leading the way in best practices that can benefit other HR professionals.”

Princeton’s HR Office Sets New Standard for Using Gender-Inclusive Language

According a June 2016 report released by UCLA Law think tank the Williams Institute, approximately 1.4 million adults throughout the United States identify themselves as transgender, which is roughly 0.6% of the national population. Although this percentage seems marginal, it’s actually double the estimated number from just a decade ago.

This rise in transgender identification is triggering a nationwide discussion about the need to use more gender-inclusive language in schools, workplaces, homes, and generally at large.

Most recently, Princeton University’s Office of Human Resources has voiced its support for gender-inclusivity by issuing a series of recommendations designed to encourage more gender-inclusive terminology within its official communications, job advertisements, policies, and job descriptions.

What is gender-inclusive language? Princeton University defines it as a manner of speaking or writing used to address an individual of unknown gender or a group of mixed gendered individuals.

The university’s recommendations were first drawn up in August 2014, were modified in March 2015, and received their final update in September 2016. Examples of original recommendations include:

  • Replacing gendered pronouns with “them” or “their”.
  • Replacing gendered pronouns with a general title such as “the person,” “the Individual,” or “the student.”
  • Eliminating pronouns altogether whenever possible.
  • Utilizing second-person voice by using “you’ or “your”.

The memo also advised the HR staff to apply gender-inclusive language towards common occupations. For example:

  • Cameraman: Camera Operator
  • Waitress: Server
  • Fireman: Firefighter
  • Policewoman: Police Officer
  • Spokesman: Spokesperson

So far, Princeton’s gender-inclusive approach has been widely applauded by students and faculty alike, while others still firmly believe the school still has a long way to go.

And what is LGBT Center Director Judy Jarvis’s reaction? In a statement made to the Daily Princetonian, Jarvis pointed out that it was just plain common sense to practice inclusive communication.

Monster Swallowed Up by HR Giant in Multimillion Dollar Deal

What happens when a major human resources company acquires one of the most frequented employment websites in the country? We will soon find out.

On August 9, 2016 a press release was issued announcing that Randstad Holding agreed to acquire Monster Worldwide, Inc. to the tune of $3.40 per share, which equates to a total sum of roughly $429 million. Despite the merger, Monster will not completely disappear but rather, “will continue operating as a separate and independent entity.”

Before digging into the agreement’s intended purpose, first a little background on Randstad Holding.

Randstad Holding is a multibillion HR services provider that works on a global scale self-reportedly worth approximately $24.5 billion. Since its inception in 1960, Ranstad has spread across nearly 40 countries and now stands as the second biggest HR services provider on the planet. Its services include assistance in:

  • Outsourcing
  • Sales and marketing
  • Staffing
  • Office and administration
  • Human resources
  • Consulting and workforce solutions
  • Manufacturing and logistics
  • Life sciences
  • Finance and accounting
  • Health care
  • Information technology
  • Legal matters

As for the merger, Randstad wanted to take control of Monster’s distribution network in order to construct the most extensive platform for HR services in the industry. According to Randstad, the new merger essentially connects the labor supply and market demand into a more seamless relationship, thereby making it easier than ever to match employers with prospective jobseekers.

As for Monster, the deal may be the company’s best bet for survival. A recent article published by VentureBeat revealed that in 2011 Monster earned an annual revenue of $1 billion. Yet, during the first six months in 2016 the company only generated $308.7 million.

Could buying up struggling job sites be the wave of the future for HR firms? If Randstad’s latest acquisition proves as lucrative as it sounds, it very well could be.

Effective Ways to Manage Workplace Bullies

Most of us assumed, if not hoped, that bullies would vanish from our everyday lives as we left our school days behind us and entered adulthood. Yet, during the course of our careers many of us have discovered that bullies are still very much present in the workplace.

The very existence of workplace bullies can be a human resources nightmare because of their negative impact on coworkers’ quality of life and ability to maintain high-quality productivity. In severe cases, workplace bullying could even lead to costly legal consequences that may ruin a company’s reputation.

According to the Healthy Workforce Campaign, workplace bullying is defined as a situation where one or more employees is made to feel intimidated or unsafe in their personal expression of self. The most common examples of workplace bullying include:

  • Verbally abusive language
  • Verbal and nonverbal behavior that is threatening, intimidating or humiliating
  • The purposeful interference of another’s efforts to accomplish professional goals

Working in the field of human resources, it is not just important to recognize the presence of workplace bullying but also its pervasiveness. A national survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute in 2014 revealed:

  • 27% are currently or have previously experienced workplace bullying
  • 72% of the American public acknowledge the occurrence of workplace bullying
  • Bosses are the biggest source of workplace bullying
  • 72% of employers defend, deny, disregard, support, and/or justify workplace bullying

So what solutions can HR departments provide to minimalize workplace bullying? In an article published by the Society for Human Resource Management, Catherine Mattice, SHRM-SCP suggested the following tips:

  • Installing a performance management system using employee auditing
  • Educating both workers and managers about workplace bullying
  • Suggesting ways that victims can confront bullies
  • Encouraging witnesses to disclose instances of bullying
  • Training bullies to communicate in less aggressive ways
  • Prompting leaders to become more assertive towards bullies

Strategies for Hiring the Best Remote Workers

Gone are the days when HR managers looked askance at candidates who wanted to work from home. Numerous studies have shown that telecommuters tend to be more productive. In addition, companies that allow employees to telecommute frequently save substantial amounts of money on the physical cost of maintaining a workplace.

Startups in particular benefit from hiring remote workers, since it is time-consuming and expensive to persuade a stellar candidate to uproot and move from a different location.

Inc.com provided six tips on hiring the best remote workers in a 2015 piece on productivity. The first tip is on where to find qualified candidates who want to work remotely. Author Neil Patel provided six of his sourcing solutions:

  • Your company’s blog
  • WeWorkRemotely.com
  • ProBlogger (for writers)
  • FlexJobs
  • Working Nomads
  • SkiptheDrive.com

Tip number 2 advises that as you interview potential candidates, you should try to gauge their familiarity and response to the idea of working remotely. For instance, someone with experience working remotely knows how to apply the discipline necessary to manage time wisely despite the typical distractions that may be found in a home office. Someone who is just excited by the idea of working from home may not show the same level of behavioral commitment.

The 3rd tip is to know exactly what you are looking for. It is important to define what you want from a remote worker.

Fourth is to hire contractors and not employees. Many remote workers prefer working as independent contractors. Plus, hiring a contractor is less complicated and less expensive than hiring a full-fledged employee.

Patel also suggests offering one or two perks. As more companies hire remote workers, the ability to work from home is less of a draw that can be considered an actual perk. In fact, he states that working remotely is a given for superstars. Some of his suggestions include:

  • A nice office chair
  • Starbucks credit
  • Book credit
  • Health club membership or fitness tracking device
  • Paid time off
  • Vacation credit

The final tip is to use multiple interview methods. He suggests using email, phone interviews, and interviews on Skype. Using differing approaches offers the candidate a chance to highlight different skillsets.

Providing Relevant and Accessible Training through Mobile Phones and Learning Management Systems

After a new employee is hired, they aren’t left in a vacuum to create a project or perform a task. No, they are working with teams of various sizes and developing skills. Beyond that, employees new and old, need to receive training to reinforce previously studied concepts and expand their horizons with new ideas. The problem presented today is that the traditional path of taking small classes is no longer easy or effective for modern workers.

Instead, the world is saturated with technology in all corners, and it’s changing how people consume content of all kinds. Content is packaged in small bits, often less then 3 minutes long or a few hundred words at most. Participating in a training session is not only more time consuming for most employees, it’s in opposition to what they’re confortable with, slowing down the learning process dramatically.

That is why companies are rising up that specialize in Learning Management Systems, or LMS. These systems are designed to hold a large amount of data, whether it be videos, short summary documents, or a series of slides providing bite-sized learning opportunities for employees.

Saba Software, a company based in the UK, has created a system called TIM the Intelligent Mentor, a set of algorithms that learn from each and every user, creating custom learning profiles for every employee that uses the software. The value in this kind of software reaches into multiple areas. Employees can engage in training in whatever way they want, confident that the intelligent system will help them learn what they need. Employers can also dig into analytics provided by TIM, and tailor their content within TIM to fit employees’ needs as necessary.

In addition to providing complex systems for each user, learning on mobile devices is a highly requested feature for companies that take their work on the road. In other LMSs, there are accompanying mobile apps that allow employees to quickly glance at material before they launch into important presentations or meetings.

However, be careful when investing in an LMS. The goal of new learning software is not to use learning software. Purchasing a LMS has the express goal of making training opportunities easier for employees so that they may fulfill the needs of the company better and better with each training module.

The Importance of Social Awareness in Human Resources

In today’s world, social awareness can make or break a career. No matter your opinion on world events or social developments, not being aware of what is going on can dramatically limit the potential of your human resources department. The world is changing, and human resources must be conscious enough of the shift to not only prevent disaster, but also make timely resource decisions.

If your company is selling a product, the employees should do their best to avoid making products that run against ideas deemed offensive. This is not as simple as it appears. In the age of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, significant movements may arise, and your company’s product or marketing may need to change to avoid being cast aside, or even worse, publicly ridiculed.

How do you begin to adapt to such changes in the marketplace? First, it’s important to recognize that not every social shift will be worth paying attention to. From the human resources angle, a political gaffe that becomes entangled with a social campaign requires little to no attention. However, other significant movements, especially in the area of hiring women and racial minorities, are worthy of attention. Social activists pay attention to how companies react to such movements, and human resources is an integral part of altering how the company is perceived should it be put under intense scrutiny.

Above all, being aware of social movements is not an easily executed task. Responding to a movement requires slow consideration of ethics and the company vision. It’s not wise to hire a new employee or make adjustments to resources based solely on hot topics. Instead, experience and tact is required.

Employment Gap Signals Change in Human Resources Retention Strategy

The manufacturing industry will be among the hardest hit in the next decade as the Baby Boomers begin retiring in mass since the industry is comprised predominantly of boomers. As 2.7 million are expected to retire from this industry in the coming years, it will leave a gap that may be further widened by a negative perception of the industry. Many view manufacturing as dangerous, unskilled work.

So then, it is up to creative and talented human resources teams in manufacturing companies to fill that gap by hiring the right people for the right positions and managing them in a way that keeps employees working within the manufacturing industry for years to come. Manufacturing is not the only industry facing an employment problem, causing HR industry leaders to put together a list of recommendations for HR professionals hoping to make an impact.

HR teams must treat these kinds of employment issues the same way the company might treat a supply chain issue. Waiting until holes appear and then filling them will leave HR departments constantly trying to catch up as more and more people retire or leave the industry. By taking action ahead of time to create a steady flow of incoming employees, HR departments can keep themselves from having to scramble to find employees, but instead focus on retaining and training new employees.

Helping employees to understand the benefits of a long-term career in an industry is also important. This means providing employees with learning opportunities and ways to develop their skills and experience. This helps employees feel valued and also helps them to feel as if their industry is benefiting them and not just the other way around.

Finally, looking at recruiting from a marketing perspective and attracting talent the same way businesses attract customers, is important in what is increasingly becoming an applicant’s market. Employers across the country will have to make significant changes to their HR strategies if they want to stay competitive in the years to come.


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