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How happy are your employees? Is employee happiness at a low or a high? You know that people don’t perform as well when they’re feeling disengaged, but you may not realise the extent of the problem. The latest Gallup poll (of more than 80,000 workers) on employee engagement tells a dismal story. In 2015, only 32 percent of U.S. workers said they were “engaged” at their jobs. More than 50 percent said they were “not engaged,” while another 17 percent stated that they were “actively disengaged.” This data has shown no significant change since Gallup first started this annual poll in 2000, so the problem is persistent. In fact, more recent Gallup research suggests that, in the U.K., the number of “engaged” workers has dropped to an alarming 8 percent.

Why Employee Engagement Matters

When you head to the office each morning, you hope your workers are feeling energised because it makes the office environment better for everyone. But how does employee happiness translate into actual performance and productivity? The numbers are clear: Companies with engaged workers outperform other companies by 202 percent. Research published by the Academy of Management Perspectives finds that “stronger emotional ties to the organisation serve to significantly lessen the likelihood that employees would leave.” Also consider that the cost of replacing an entry-level worker is 30 to 50 percent of their annual salary. This expense increases as the position being filled becomes more specialised. Replacing top workers can cost a staggering 400 percent of their salary. And these statistics don’t even begin to address the cost of burnout in co-workers shouldering the extra burden after a colleague leaves the company.

Employee Happiness Begins With You

As a manager, your actions can have a profound effect on your team. Research by Gallup notes that managers account for 70 percent of the variance in employee motivation levels. One survey of over 7,000 workers found that one in two had left a job to get away from a specific manager. Given your power to improve employee happiness, what can you do to make your company a great place to work?

Be Engaged Yourself

First, evaluate your own personal engagement. Gallup’s State of the American Manager report determined that only about 35 percent of supervisors and HR managers are themselves engaged. This has expensive outcomes: The cost of managers who report that they’re “not engaged” is estimated to be $77 billion to $96 billion annually, while the cost of the additional 14 percent who are “actively disengaged” is more than $300 billion per year. (On a positive note, the fact that you’re reading and thinking about employee recognition suggests that you’re in the minority of managers trying to make things better.)

Empower Your Employees

People feel a deeper commitment to their work when they have some power over how things are done. Here’s how to empower your workers:

Give them control over their schedules, allowing them to shift start times or work remotely for part of the week. If workers can attend to their outside obligations, they’ll feel less stressed and distracted when they’re on the job.

Communicate how each person’s work matters to the company. Employees will make a greater effort if they understand how their contributions further the company’s goals.

Offer the opportunity for professional development, including coaching or mentorship programmes. Your workers will feel a greater commitment to yourorganisationif they know you value their long-term well-being.

Seek suggestions and feedback. Let every worker, regardless of salary level, have a say in how things are done.

Offer Rewards and Recognition

Everyone should have their efforts recognised. This leads to a greater commitment and deeper sense of personal identification with an organisation. Employee rewards and recognition can take many forms, and the non-monetary kind can be the most meaningful. Forty-eight percent of employees stated that management recognition of job performance, whether through feedback, incentives or rewards, was “very important.” For these reasons, creating a system for employee appreciation is a must for any competitive company.

Use Tech Measure Employee Happiness

It’s necessary to be able to measure your success. You may be able to sense the overall mood of your workplace, but you need something tangible. This is where HR technology known as “pulse” or “interactive listening” surveys come in handy. These are surveys that employees can click and submit at regular times during the workday. This daily information provides a snapshot of your company’s and your immediate team’s well-being, as well as tracking trends in happiness over time.

Employee happiness affects your company’s bottom line. HR tech has become sophisticated enough to measure and respond to some of our basic social needs. With these thoughts in mind, implementing surveys and employee-recognition best practices are effective for strengthening organisations and building employee engagement and success.

This content was provided by Achievers, an UNLEASH sponsor.

The post How Employee Happiness Benefits Your Bottom Line appeared first on UNLEASH News.

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If you ask executives what worries them most about the future of their company, many will say they are preparing for a global talent shortage. Executives and human resource departments have already noticed a shortage of employees in sectors such as engineering, sales, marketing and management, and are looking for ways to combat the lack of highly skilled candidates.

As companies grow, incorporate new technologies and expand globally, they need workers who can rapidly adapt to change and who have the necessary skills to succeed and grow in a global business environment. Going global with your HR and recruiting methods can be the key to filling positions with the right people.

Here are two ways language flexibility can help address your talent shortage.

Improve Employee Experience to Retain and Recruit from Your Current Employees

Companies around the world are starting to make room in their business strategies, C-suite and company culture for the idea of employee experience (EX). Organizations that implement employee-focused initiatives see huge returns: more satisfied customers, higher sales, and involved and enthusiastic employees.

Companies that know their employees are equally as important as their customers see benefits across the board. Forrester’s Predictions 2018 report says that “customer-obsessed companies grow their revenues faster and have more loyal customers. … Departments with high levels of employee engagement have 10% higher customer satisfaction scores and 20% higher sales totals” (p. 2). All of this goes back to the concept of organization health and of creating a whole, consistent and complete experience for employees, as proposed in “The Advantage” by Patrick Lencioni.

And that brings us to our first tip — when re-skilling and up-skilling to fill your talent vacancies, employees do best when they can read training materials, HR documents and corporate communications in their own language. In a globalized workplace, the language of the workplace significantly affects employee experience. English is becoming a global language and it’s largely the language of business, but assuming that employees will fully comprehend and identify with content written in English can alienate workers. Companies that care about the wellbeing of their workers know that putting materials in a local language makes workers comfortable and more productive — a net win for any company. By training your current employees with materials that use their native languages, you build their loyalty while speeding their adaptation to the new roles you need them to fill.

With all the options available to translate materials within your company, it’s just a matter of picking the right combination of translation technology and expert linguists to meet the needs of your unique business. For example, when we worked with a Fortune 50 company to roll out a new HRIS system to more than 150,000 employees, we used a combination of linguists with HR terminology expertise and workflow automation to successfully launch training in 23 languages.

Empower Your Team to Recruit Globally

Many companies’ first strategy will be to train internal candidates, but the competition for employees will be significant enough that internal training may not be enough. A recent Mercer report anticipates that many companies will turn to external recruitment to fill their talent needs.

So, if everybody is planning to hire external and foreign talent, how can you widen your pool of candidates? The answer: Expanding your horizons across language barriers.

Bilingual employees offer the advantage of being able to interact with customers in their own language and to enrich your company’s culture with diversity. Hiring international talent is a critical move in a global talent shortage, and a strategic one for injecting new talent into your workforce. Once you’ve found the best talent for your company, making efforts to communicate in your prospective employees’ native language will pay off in recruiting them. This could be important, because the competition for bilingual employees is growing. As a long-term strategy, building translation costs into your budget can prepare your company to hire and retain the best talent, no matter what language they speak.

The global talent shortage is real, but with superior EX and an eye on global talent, your company can rise above the frenzy with the right people for the right position.

The post Going Global to Combat Your Talent Shortage appeared first on UNLEASH News.

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I’ve worked in the human resources industry for 22 years. Gender equality is one of those trendy topics that comes around every once in a while. Over and over, I’ve seen it dismissed by leaders who lack imagination and can’t envision a world where women and people of color have equal access to financial and decision-making opportunities at work.

“It’s so hard to hire and promote women,” they tell us. “There’s a war for talent. We can’t find the right candidates. When we do, they’re too expensive or want benefits we can’t offer.”

Achieving gender equality isn’t splitting the atom. HR and recruiting professionals have the capacity to fix this. Beyond employing Soviet-style quotas, there’s a way to rethink your approach to the function of HR that will benefit your business for years to come.

Sourcers and Recruiters: Work to the Top of Your License

Thanks to the uptick in the economy, it seems as if it’s never been more challenging to attract and retain the best workers.

But I have a little history under my belt. I know finding good candidates is tough no matter what. Instead of complaining about how hard it is to find people — and blaming a broken talent pipeline for the lack of women in leadership roles — accept the radical notion that good talent is hard to find. Then take accountability and build that damn talent pipeline yourself.

The art and science of recruiting rests on a foundation of creative and diverse and varied talent pools that include people of all sexes, genders, races and abilities. While it seems daunting to craft talent attraction strategies, there’s no need to recreate the wheel. Case studies — complete with instructions — abound on the internet.

For example, MYOB is an Australian corporation that provides tax and accounting services to small- and medium-sized businesses. Have a look at their case study and learn how they recruited more women into IT. Copy the good stuff that might work for your organization.

Then, when you achieve success in your endeavors, teach the world how you did it. That’s how we band together and solve gender inequality in the workforce.

Employer Branding: Mean What You Say

There’s nothing worse than being sold a bill of goods on a job that sucks. It’s not uncommon for recruiters to lure candidates into a company with the promise of a family-friendly culture. Unfortunately, corporate HR departments don’t get the memo and enforce company policies that undermine work-life balance.

Thankfully, workers are talking to one another. Through online platforms and informal communities, job seekers are evaluating job offers and, in the process, raking your company culture over the coals. Your “unlimited PTO policy” and inauthentic employer brand isn’t fooling anyone except the CEO who thinks he oversees a benevolent culture that supports employees who have a life outside of work. Workers know the truth and are warning each other.

If your company lacks female representation in crucial roles, it could be that you’re the last one to know that your employer brand sucks. Or you see it but feel powerless to change it.

It’s time to hire experts to bridge the gap between recruiting and HR. Find consultants and advisors who develop employer brands and talent strategies that speak the truth about your organization. Or get educated and do the work yourself. Here’s a list of books on employer branding to get you started.

A Message to HR: Pay People What They Deserve

The single biggest thing your company can do to achieve gender equality and bring more diverse people into your workforce is to close the pay gap.

According to GetRaised, a site committed to eliminating the pay gap, underpaid people tend not to ask for raises. It’s because they either don’t know they are being underpaid, don’t know how to ask for a raise, or feel they don’t deserve a raise. As a recruiter, you can proactively create campaigns and strategies to highlight competitive pay practices and attract passive candidates into your company.

Better yet, what if you could offer an employee experience where people don’t have to jump through hurdles and ask for what they deserve? GetRaised also reports that many underpaid workers do themselves a disservice and ask for raises using the wrong language. They say “I want a raise” or “I deserve a raise” instead of building a logical case for change.

It’s easier to develop and promote a diverse workforce if you’re paying them well and retaining them. Let’s work backward and solve the problem of gender inequality where it often starts: at the offer letter.

You Have the Power to Fix Gender Inequality

There’s plenty of blame to go around when it comes to gender inequality. Some say that schools aren’t educating our children. Girls aren’t advocating for themselves. Protected minorities don’t know how to negotiate.

It’s rare to find an executive or human resources leader who takes responsibility and focuses on practical, pragmatic solutions to achieve gender equality. If you were looking for a sign, this is it. Create diverse talent pools that enable you to hire more women and people of color. Don’t sell your candidates on an inauthentic employer brand. Pay people what they deserve.

Adopt those three pillars and document your results. Then you’ll be the future case study for performance and excellence in the HR industry and beyond.

The post How You Can Solve Gender Equality – Yes, You appeared first on UNLEASH News.

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Picture an organization where every hire is based on a candidate’s competence and potential — on the book and not the cover — and is never influenced by conscious or unconscious biases. This is the vision for leaders everywhere, but it’s a goal that we as organizations — and as human beings — all too often fall short of reaching.

Human resources teams have long focused on hiring the very best person for each job from the most diverse candidate pool possible. Pre-hire written assessments were created decades ago to enable us to incorporate scientifically backed data such as aptitude and skills scores into the screening process. These assessments had a positive impact on recruiting and are considered essential for many types of positions.

‘Mini-Me,’ Preemptive Assessments and Resume Blindness

Yet there are still significant hurdles for both recruiters and candidates as we work toward greater diversity and consistent selection of best-fit candidates. Recruits sometimes drop out when faced with a two-hour written assessment, which is often required early in the process, at a point when they’re still exploring the company and are not yet committed.

Recruiters still sift through paper resumes, sometimes at a volume and pace that causes all of them to begin to look and sound alike to the reviewer. When time is short and the stack of resumes is high, is it any wonder that we sometimes purge based on conscious or unconscious biases such as grade point average, prestige of schools attended or gaps in employment? Surprisingly, research shows that all three of those factors — GPA, employment gaps and school attended — fail as predictors of future job success.

One other area of unconscious bias is one to which all of us might have fallen prey at one time or another, and that is our natural inclination as managers to select people similar to ourselves to work with, rather than basing the selection process purely on qualifications or potential.

Finally and perhaps most surprisingly, even standardized tests show some bias when we examine pass rates. Clearly a better way is needed for lessening bias as much as possible in the hiring process.

Expert Technology + Expert People: A Powerful Combination

A combination of recruiter expertise and scalable artificial intelligence screening and decision support may help us leap over these inevitable stumbling blocks to get much closer to that ideal hiring environment, whereby everyone is considered for the job on a level playing field based on qualifications and potential to perform the job. Both people and technology are needed, with a productive division of labor allowing repetitive decisions involving big data at high speed to be given to the AI “assistant.” Those requiring interpersonal skills and professional judgment on a more relaxed timeline are best performed by skilled hiring-team members.

One children’s hospital had an ongoing challenge with too many applicants applying for jobs for which they were not a good fit, and many who did not have sufficient understanding of medical terminology. The traditional process of scheduling face-to-face screening interviews, bringing candidates to the hospital and performing the interviews was time-consuming and costly. To address this issue the hiring team began a program that allowed nursing graduates to submit a general video profile that would allow recruiters to screen the candidates with a better understanding of them as whole people, and to match them to job openings.

After hiring one candidate with an impressive enthusiasm and desire to help the hospital’s child patients, the hiring team discovered that she had previously applied to work at the hospital eight times and had never been contacted, much less called in for an interview. They realized that their previous hiring process was actually weeding out talent with some of the specific qualities for which they were searching. A resume or online application form rarely offers an opportunity to express one’s desire to help and serve others, but these traits came across clearly in the video submitted by the candidate.

Dynamic interviews such as those that the hospital now offers by starting its process with video submissions can help organizations expand their interview pool and look at more diverse candidates. Much like widening the aperture of a photo, firms that use this technology have been able to expose hidden talent that might otherwise have gone unnoticed by the initial scan of the applicant tracking system.

In addition to allowing candidates to express their personalities and show off their interpersonal skills through video, some companies are employing AI-driven assessments that evaluate these video interviews on thousands of characteristics and factors that match those possessed by their current top performers for particular jobs.

What About Algorithmic Bias?

Recently a spate of headlines have introduced the idea of algorithmic bias based on a concern that bad data science is creating algorithms that simply replicate our own human biases and make them more scalable. While it’s true that it’s all too possible for people to build their biases into machine learning/AI algorithms, a commitment to ethical development of those algorithms using scientific oversight and ongoing validation can prevent this from occurring.

For example, after creating an algorithm intended to provide first-screen decision support for recruiting professionals, a validation study of the interview data should be performed as a matter of course. If bias becomes apparent during that study, data scientists and IO psychologists can work together to identify the data points that caused the discrepancy and remove them from consideration.

By beginning the hiring process with this type of neutral and data-based assessment, we can substantially reduce bias from essential first-pass screening decisions. Inside top global companies today, the AI/human partnership in HR is casting a wider net, minimizing the importance of the resume, and making it possible to discover hidden talent that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

This post was provided by HireVue, a sponsor of UNLEASH news.

The post The AI/Human Partnership: Addressing Unconscious Bias and ‘Assessment Resistance’ appeared first on UNLEASH News.

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Advances in technology have made it easy to standardize and scale employee learning and development — but that’s not enough to deliver the results businesses desperately need, experts say. It’s time for an upgrade.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 20th CEO Survey, businesses are trying to manage huge leaps in technology in an unstable environment while fending off new competition from local and global market players. They need solutions that help employees learn and develop competitive skills. And while the market has been responding, the solutions that have worked up to this point won’t be enough to meet this next round of challenges.

“Every big organization has a static LMS behemoth that houses whatever you think your employees need to develop,” says Paul Szurek, a vice president at venture capital firm Insight Venture Partners. New tools can better provide continuous learning and professional-development opportunities in dynamic ways, he says. “They allow people to enter into the next phase of whatever the world’s going to look like.”

So, what’s in store for learning management systems? Here are the trends we’re seeing.

Clearer Objectives and Better Focus

Legacy LMSs don’t always have the capability to respond to new business challenges —and can even hold businesses back.

Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report found that 90 percent of companies are redesigning their organizations to be more dynamic, team-centric and connected. But most organizations continue to use siloed learning platforms that do little to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing, says Iain Scholnick, founder and CEO of Braidio, a social learning platform for sales enablement and talent development.

“As organizations take inventory, they’ll soon begin to shift their tactics and tools to be more aligned with their organizational strategy,” he says. New solutions will align better with organizational strategy and help contingent and flexible workforces get up to speed more quickly, communicate common goals and build collaboration skills.

In addition, workplace learning will increasingly be tied to corporate initiatives, says Dianne Crampton, founder of the TIGERS Success Series, a management consulting company. Organizations will connect development more closely to business outcomes, such as by measuring correlations between employee development and bottom-line results.

A Return to the Classroom

Mobile solutions are hot, but employers still recognize the value of in-person education, leading to growth in person-to-person models, says Terry Traut, CEO of Entelechy, which produces leadership development, management and customer-experience training programs. “In our experience, instructor-led training is ideally suited for experiential, thought-provoking topics, action-oriented learning and presentations and high-level discussions,” Traut says.

The result is a multifaceted approach that takes advantage of the best parts of tech platforms and in-person teaching. “When used effectively, in-person learning experiences can lead to significantly more engaged participants, since the format holds learners accountable and connects them with peers experiencing similar challenges,” Traut says. “Above all, organizations will give instructor-led training its due place in their blended learning curriculum because it works, plain and simple.”

An Emphasis on Leadership

As companies use more contract, outsourced and freelance workers, leadership training will become a priority for organizations. “In 2018, there will be a shift toward focusing corporate training more on leadership development at all levels to improve managers’ ability and willingness to effectively lead their teams by providing ongoing coaching, delivering actionable feedback, motivating for performance and leading difficult conversations,” Traut says. “As more organizations are moving to project-based work, leadership skills of project team leaders will become increasingly important.”

Having strong and capable leaders can improve customer satisfaction and create a deeper bench for succession-planning purposes, he says. And continuing to develop leaders will help create a competitive advantage including an increase in leader and employee retention, engagement and loyalty.

The post What’s Next for Learning Management Systems? appeared first on UNLEASH News.

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When Allison Robinson was on maternity leave, she started thinking about the next stage of her career, one that included a growing family. A more flexible schedule sounded ideal, but she worried that less face time with the boss would restrict her advancement opportunities. As she explored her options, she learned that employers were also becoming more interested in nontraditional arrangements, as a way to address acute talent shortages.

She decided to find a new way to address both of these challenges, founding The Mom Project, a digital marketplace that connects people returning to the workforce with companies that need their talent. “The job market is really tight, and there’s an increased appetite for talent that doesn’t have a cookie-cutter background,” she says. The organization recently partnered with BP to attract midlevel talent, and the result is a returnship program for those who have stepped away for their career for a period of time — usually maternity leave or a similar caregiving situation — and want to transition back into the workforce.

Those candidates can be a great fit for companies like BP, which wants to attract diverse (and often hard to find) mid-level candidates for short-term, project-based work, as well as provide opportunities for people to explore new work environments. In the past, BP didn’t necessarily consider people who had breaks in their career timelines as serious job candidates, says Brian Zellner, the U.S. downstream resourcing manager at BP who helped create the company’s returnship program. The company now has five workers on four- to six-month assignments in partnership with The Mom Project.

“Corporate America as a whole is going to have to acknowledge we have a changing demographic,” Zellner says. “There are different needs and models of work we’re going to have to embrace if we want diversity and different perspectives.”

Looking to build your own returnship program? Here’s what Zellner and Robinson said they learned from the pilot project.

Focus on Opportunities for Growth

You’ve just made an important investment in the future of your team. Now, trust that decision. Make sure that you let your new hires show their stuff on meaningful projects that drive the company’s future. That way, employees returning to the workforce can offer their “outsider” perspectives as they grow their skills in the direction the organization is headed. “We didn’t just want to create work for the sake of creating work,” Zellner says. “We wanted something that provided real-life impact to us.”

BP also set up opportunities for people in the program to build their networks by familiarizing themselves with the company’s different “downstream” businesses, Zellner says. They got an overview of retail operations, a tour of an oil refinery and education about trading oil and gas commodities. They also got to meet with senior leaders. “It’s been a balance of not just coming in and doing project work, but also support and guidance and exposure to senior executives,” he says.

Set Clear Expectations

Returnships and other nontraditional arrangements show their strengths when you structure them for communication and cooperation. Setting and communicating expectations will help everyone involved leverage their time and talents for the best group result. “For BP, this was a 40-hour work week, and workers were expected to come into the office,” she says. For other projects, there may be remote work, part-time hours or other models.

No matter how the returnship is structured, laying a strong foundation will help you make it a success, Robinson says. “They may not have been in a traditional office environment for several years, so it’s important to make sure they feel welcome, supported and challenged.”

To accomplish that, Zellner says, each participant also had an internal company mentor who could help them learn about BP and show them the ropes. Representatives from The Mom Project offered coaching and feedback when participants needed it.

Keep an Open Mind

Remember that the participants’ time away from the workplace has been filled with character-building events and life experiences that give these candidates new and useful perspectives. “Traditionally, we were apprehensive of folks who have been out of the workforce, but now we recognize that the skill set and the experience they had before they went on a career break didn’t go away,” Zellner says.

Robinson says it’s important for larger companies to remember that the flexibility returning workers want can take many different forms. “So many times, the knee-jerk reaction is, ‘We don’t offer flexibility, where do we begin?’ But it doesn’t always mean part-time or working remotely all week,” she says, and project-based work can provide opportunities to explore more diverse talent. “For us, it’s all about meeting companies where they are and creating a roadmap.”

The post BP and The Mom Project Find New Talent Through Mid-Career Returnships appeared first on UNLEASH News.

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How would you start if you wanted your team to show more empathy? Would you draft new policies about hiring? Set rules related to communication?

Good policies aren’t a bad way to get on the same page, but it’s the little details — like email habits and even what you wear to work — that really matter, says Belinda Parmar, founder of The Empathy Business.

We asked Belinda how leaders can dramatically shift a corporate culture to incorporate more empathy.

Make the Business Case for Empathy

Parmar’s firm created an “Empathy Index” that ranks companies on metrics like employee perceptions of the company, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and on environmental factors including carbon emissions, forestry and water usage. It has found a direct correlation between high empathy and strong business performance.

“Whatever way you cut the numbers, more-empathic companies deliver more results to shareholders,” she says. “There is a financial argument.”

One reason may be that employees at empathetic companies are more productive. “We found that people on teams with higher empathy levels are much less likely to be off sick,” she says. In other words, empathy keeps people working.

Focus on Culture, Not One-Off Policies

Most leaders would like to helm an empathetic culture, but moving past the stats and shifting the culture employees actually experience is hard work. Parmar says that companies are always armed with stats about their diversity, for example, but “it’s not about getting more women through the door. It’s about creating cultures where women thrive. I think companies, particularly in Silicon Valley, need to forget the bean bags, the pool tables, and start thinking about the small things they can do to make sure that women feel that they belong.”

In other words, creating an inclusive culture isn’t about the benefits you offer, she says. “When you ask CEOs this question, they talk about their maternity policy. It’s not about the maternity policy. It’s about things like a culture where I feel I can say what I like, a culture that isn’t dominated by politics, a culture that doesn’t normalize very masculine behaviors.”

Dig Into the Details That Actually Matter

Parmar’s company finds examples of empathy in unexpected places. Who would guess that the way employees write an email would affect the overall culture? But, she says, “we found hidden indicators of empathy in things like the proportion of BCCs [blind copies of emails]. If a company has a high level of blind copies, they have a culture of disempowerment and lack of transparency.”

Plus, Parmar and her team examine how employees spend their time. “We look at things like company politics. We ask all the employees, ‘What percentage of your time are you spending on company politics?’ You would not believe the results. It’s huge.” These hidden factors of empathy are much more indicative than stats about NPS or other popular PR numbers, she says.

Build Little Nudges

Once you understand that tiny details all build to a larger culture, you can start thinking about how you change people’s behavior. Parmar focused on little tweaks. “A lot of the things I do, they’re tiny,” she says. “They’re nudges. They’re taken from behavioral science, but in aggregate they start to change a culture.”

Here’s an example: The firm was working with a luxury car manufacturer. Leaders knew there was an “empathy deficit” in the way they sold cars. Parmar’s firm measured the company’s empathy and found that the deficit wasn’t in the way dealers were selling cars in the showroom — it was the environment customers walked into.

“One really simple thing is the car dealers were wearing ties. Now, when you walk into a car dealer, a tie says to you, if you’re a customer, I’m going to sell you something. That was creating a feeling of ‘I don’t feel safe here.’ ”

The firm recommended a series of 10 small nudges, including changing the salespeople’s wardrobe. “The simple fact of changing the attire of the car dealers, in some of the environments, increased sales by 23 percent,” she says.

When Parmar’s firm worked with one of Europe’s biggest banks, they set up a four-person “empathy nudge unit” at the organization. The group was tasked with looking at every detail — from the way employees submitted expenses to how they wrote letters to customers — to find opportunities to build empathy. Putting manpower behind the strategy “put empathy at the heart of the business,” she says.

Parmar says she’s learned that people aren’t generally unempathetic. Most leaders are good people who want to do good work. But, she says, “the culture in which they work is un-empathic. They normalize un-empathic behaviors. Look at the culture, the process, the system. We don’t need to change the people. We need to change the environment within which the people work.”

The post Does Your Business Need a Dose of Empathy? appeared first on UNLEASH News.

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Students in a 2016 computer science course at Georgia Tech got a surprise as the semester was wrapping up: It was revealed that one of their teaching assistants, a friendly but serious-minded young woman named Jill Watson, was a robot.

The students had never met Watson, but felt they knew her. Over the course of the semester she had fielded hundreds of inquiries posted to the class’ digital bulletin board, offering homework tips, leading online discussions and winning praise for her quick, helpful responses. But unlike the other teaching assistants, Watson was actually a “chatbot” — a virtual assistant created by Professior Ashok Goel to reduce the strain on his human helpers.

“I was flabbergasted,” one student said after the big reveal. “Just when I wanted to nominate Jill Watson as an outstanding TA,” another declared.

Goel’s teacher-bot offers a glimpse of a possible future for the world’s workplaces. The same techniques Goel used to help students and colleagues could easily be adapted to the needs of a human resources division, offering unflagging, customized and virtually instant support to employees, says Bill Meisel, a consultant who has researched the rise of digital assistants in the workplace.

“A natural-language chatbot, available to employees on mobile devices or a website, could automate much of the burden of answering employee questions without forcing the employee to wade through material to find the answers or require the time of an HR professional,” he says.

Meisel isn’t just theorizing. Thanks to the efforts of tech giants like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, along with a host of smaller companies, the robotic colonization of the workplace is well underway. Forrester reported in 2017 that 41 percent of businesses were already using or developing AI tools; three years from now at least 843 million enterprise users are expected to be using digital assistants in the workplace.

Many digital assistants focus on the consumer, and some are more gimmick than game-changer — Taco Bell’s “Tacobot,” for instance, lets Slack users order lunch via a chatbot, but still requires a human to pick up the order. Still, the future is bright for sales- and service-oriented bots: By 2020, a Gartner report predicts, customers will handle 85 percent of their dealings with businesses without interacting with a human.

‘A Democracy of Data’

As technologies evolve, bots are expected to become a bigger part of companies’ strategic planning around HR and even management functions. That has the potential to be a democratizing force by giving employees frictionless access to information and helping them to work smarter and make the most of opportunities, says Roberto Masiero, senior vice president of ADP Innovation Labs.

ADP’s own chatbots, which it uses internally and is testing with around 2,000 employees at partner organizations, can issue reminders, offer career tips and provide workers with access to HR information on a 24/7 basis. “It becomes an enabler,” Masiero says. “It creates a democracy of data that didn’t exist before.”

And it’s not just ADP that sees enormous potential for enterprise-focused digital assistants. Microsoft and Amazon are both fighting to bring voice-operated assistants into the workplace, in the hope that workers will one day use Cortana or Alexa to manage their calendars, handle to-do lists and carry out some job functions.

Other companies are developing more specialized tools. Voicera recently launched a voice-operated digital assistant called Eva that can take notes during meetings and send reminders based on the discussions it overhears. And IBM is using AI to improve talent management, saying it envisions a future in which “every employee has a personal mentor.”

Bots could also have a big role to play in onboarding and training. A Navy project found that recruits who received IT training from a digital tutor subsequently outperformed human-trained recruits, and after seven weeks of training could perform at a level that matched that of an specialist with three years of on-the-job experience.

Bracing for a Potential Belly-Flop

Still, not everyone’s excited about the promised AI-powered techno-utopia. An HR.com survey found that 89 percent of HR professionals either “detest,” “dislike” or “have some reservations” about AI adoption in the workplace.

Even former Google HR chief Laszlo Bock, who is upbeat overall about AI’s potential, says he’s a little freaked out by the business community’s rapid embrace of the technology. “It’s the feeling when you stand on top of a high dive for the first time: You know you probably won’t belly-flop, but you’re also a little terrified,” he says.

There are many ways in which AI could make the workplace better and make employees “happier and more productive,” Bock says. But there are also plenty of scenarios in which artificial intelligence could alienate workers, reinforce existing institutional biases or impede the human interactions that make good leadership possible.

“You gain a lot of insight into your organization by having human beings talk to people,” Bock says. “In most chatbots, you lose that insight and knowledge.”

Part of the problem is that the term “artificial intelligence” is something of a misnomer — there’s nothing truly intelligent, and certainly nothing self-aware, about even the most sophisticated digital assistants. That means any humanity or empathy manifested by a bot ultimately rings hollow.

That’s not necessarily always a bad thing, because removing the human element from workplace interactions might make it easier for employees to talk about sensitive issues. Computer scientists at DARPA, for instance, found people were more likely to open up to an AI-powered therapist when they believed they were talking to a soulless chatbot rather than to a human-supervised system.

That led psychologists to develop Woebot, a digital assistant that checks in on mental health patients’ wellbeing and that gets franker responses than humans tend to receive. Other digital assistants specialize in discussing end-of-life issues, giving terminal patients a safe space to figure out their options. “It’s hard for humans to be nonjudgmental when they’re having these kinds of conversations. So some people might find it easier to talk to a chatbot about their thoughts,” the Rev. Rosemary Lloyd from The Conversation Project, an end-of-life charity, told New Scientist.

Finding Ways to Mitigate Risks

A bigger concern, Bock says, is that AI systems are prone to amplifying the conscious or unconscious biases of their designers and users. Bock notes that Microsoft launched a Twitter chatbot in 2016 that used machine learning to hone its conversational skills based on interactions with real people — and within 24 hours Twitter users had trained the bot to parrot horrendously racist views, forcing Microsoft to pull the plug.

That’s an extreme example, but all AI systems rely on real-world data for their training and so by their nature tend to reinforce the status quo. Add in features that fine-tune algorithms based on user feedback and it’s all too easy for cognitive technologies to reinforce institutional biases, even as they offer a veneer of objectivity.

“If all you’re doing is training on existing data, you’ll build systems that replicate the bias that already exists, and expand it into new arenas,” Bock warns. “The approach most organizations are taking to applying machine learning today will make problems of bias worse, not better.”

Such problems can be planned for and avoided, but only if managers know what they’re doing, says Dave Millner, an executive consulting partner with IBM. Unfortunately, there’s a troubling gap between the perceived potential of AI systems and managers’ understanding of the technology.

The HR.com survey found that most HR professionals believe AI will be widely used in their organizations over the next five years, with 70 percent saying chatbots will become an important way for employees to access HR information and more than half saying workers will take orders directly from computers, without the involvement of human bosses.

However, just 8 percent of HR professionals are confident that they understand AI technologies. That combination of ambition and ignorance is dangerous, Millner says, because it can prevent managers from engaging with AI in a clear-eyed way. “There are early adopters, and that’s great,” Millner says. “But there’s still a lot of ignorance, a lack of knowledge and understanding about what it can do and, more importantly, what it can’t do.”

Millner says what is needed is a more considered approach that begins with education and culminates in the implementation of well-understood systems that are designed to avoid bias and other potential pitfalls. “It’s a risk, of course,” he says. “But if it’s introduced in an appropriate way, with testing and piloting and continual learning, then you can mitigate those risks.”

The Long-Term View: ‘A Net Positive’

Bock also says workplace AI can be a boon if it’s handled responsibly. “In the long term it’s going to be a net positive,” Bock says. “But in the short/medium term it all depends on the values and perspectives of the people building these systems.”

The takeaway for decision-makers isn’t that AI is best avoided, Bock says. The key is to be cognizant of the risks and mindful in reaching for the potential rewards. “It’s a huge opportunity,” he says. “There’s a window in the next three to five years where the companies that are thoughtful about using this technology well are going to crush it, and absolutely win. There’s a huge amount of upside.”

Rather than viewing digital assistants in the workplace as money-saving technologies that can automate away the need for human interaction, Bock says, companies should see them as a means to augment human decision making and to give managers more time for the difficult but important tasks of building relationships and nurturing their employees.

“Fundamentally I’m an optimist,” he says. “A little machine learning can go a long way toward helping us be better leaders.”

The post With Digital Assistants in the Workplace, the Future Is Already Here appeared first on UNLEASH News.

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The question is often raised in jest: Are robots going to take our jobs? The answer is, well, yes — and then what? Automation and artificial intelligence are changing the ways we do business and the ways we work. Forrester estimates that by 2025, AI systems will have eliminated 7 percent of jobs, including those of customer service representatives and truck drivers. To not only keep pace but thrive, businesses need to change the ways they hire for jobs that will eventually morph or disappear entirely.

Employers still need those jobs done now, and it can be a challenge to recruit for jobs you expect to eliminate as technology advances. Walking this line will be critical for managing a more flexible and resilient workforce. “If we don’t plan for the reality of these jobs getting phased out and start talking about them and preparing people now, the risk is that we lose really good people who could be in the pipeline for the future,” says Cheryl Cran, a future-of-work expert who consults internationally about change leadership.

Here’s how to persuade someone to take on a job we already know won’t be around in 10 years.

Embrace Radical Transparency

Change is often uncomfortable, and “if you have someone who has worked 9-to-5 their entire life, this is scary. All they’ve known is job security,” Cran says. Whether you’re communicating with current employees who realize their jobs will be changing significantly or recruiting people for roles that may quickly evolve or shrink, transparency is vital, Cran says. “Don’t ignore the reality of the future; talk about how the jobs are morphing now.”

That means having a clear communication plan and being open and upfront about the present reality and future plans at your organization, she says. Be very clear about what you need from the role now, how long you expect the position to last and what opportunities you offer for training workers into new positions, she says.

Screen for Resilience

If you’re using trait assessments as part of your hiring process, Cran recommends adding questions that assess a candidate’s resilience and flexibility. Someone who just wants a job and doesn’t want to be a generalist might not be flexible enough to grow as their role evolves, Cran says. Candidates who display resilience have a better chance of adapting when things change.

Truck drivers, for example, are facing the eventuality of self-driving vehicles disrupting their industry — and jobs. But many of them also have some tech skills from dealing with onboard tracking systems, says Ira Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions, an employee assessment company. Some of those truck drivers will be out of a job in a few years, but others will be doing technology work on autonomous vehicles, Wolfe says. By measuring flexibility, creativity and resilience when recruiting for jobs you expect to change, you can identify employees and candidates who are more likely to succeed into the future.

Create Opportunities

When you recruit for roles you expect to change significantly in the coming years, look for ways to turn those changes into opportunities. You’re bringing on people who you think are a good fit for your company, so creating opportunities for them to move into as time goes on will help you retain strong performers.

“Up-skilling the current workforce and training employees on new technology, processes and systems are approaches we are taking with our staff members and associates,” says Patrick Beharelle, president and chief operating officer of TrueBlue, a staffing firm that specializes in sectors including manufacturing and transportation. “We want every employee to stay relevant. It’s smarter for us to invest in continuously training and retaining our staff than to deal with turnover.”

The post Heading for Extinction: How to Recruit for Jobs That Won’t Be Here in 10 Years appeared first on UNLEASH News.

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The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR) will take effect on May 25, 2018, bringing new laws on privacy in regard to individuals’ personal data and how it’s processed.

GDPR will significantly strengthen the rights of individuals and increase the obligations on organisations, even when they operate outside of Europe.

I’ve been paying close attention to these issues, in both my current work at Clinch as well as in previous roles involving technology policy. We’ve been working closely with our customers to make sure they fully understand how these changes will affect their processes. Here are some of the questions we’re hearing most often as the clock ticks down to May 25.

Does this really affect my organization?

Yes. All organisations are “data controllers” — i.e. an entity that either alone or jointly or in common with others determines the purposes for which and the manner in which any personal data are processed.

As a data controller it would be an expensive mistake to ignore this regulation. GDPR has a tiered series of penalties that could take a large bite out of an offending organisation’s profits. Serious infringements could mean penalties of up to 4 percent of a company’s global revenue for violations of basic principles related to data privacy and security, and of 2 percent of global revenue if company records are not in order or a supervising authority and data subjects are not notified when personal data is exposed in a security breach.

We are not based in Europe. Is this relevant to me?

The principle of “extraterritoriality” in GDPR means that if your company collects data about EU data subjects — for recruitment purposes, for example — then all requirements of GDPR apply to you, even if you don’t have a physical presence in the EU.

What is meant by ‘Privacy by Design’?

The concept of “Privacy by Design” has always played a part in EU data-protection regulations, but under the new regulation the principles of minimizing data collection and retention and of gaining consent from consumers when processing data become very explicit, with significant penalties for noncompliance.

Simply put, Privacy by Design means that when a product or service interacts with the public, the default settings or processes of that product or service should protect the privacy of the public without their manual input.

Obtaining consent before collecting personal data, only collecting the specific personal data that is necessary for optimal delivery of the service and retaining this data for the minimum period needed are all examples of this.

In general, this means you need the explicit consent of the person whose data you are collecting, processing and retaining. If you do not have this explicit consent, you will need to have clear legitimate interests to collect someone’s data without their consent, and only if it does not compromise the interests of the data subject.

The burden of proof that the data subject has knowingly given consent will lie explicitly with you as a data controller. And a data subject may withdraw their consent at any time, request a copy of their data or of its erasure, and insist on the “right to be forgotten.”

What does the term ‘right to be forgotten’ mean?

There has been a long-standing requirement in the Data Protection Directive that allows individuals to request that their data be deleted. At first glance this seems quite easy to achieve, but once you start to think about data stored in data lakes or backups this can become a significant issue. GDPR extends this right to include data published on the web — in blog posts, for example.

Do we need to do anything before we start collecting and processing data?

Yes. In general you need to maintain a record of any processing activities under your responsibility, including the categories of data you will be collecting, why you are collecting it and how long you intend to hold it. Where possible you also need a general description of the technical and organisational security measures you have in place.

New technology is also singled out for a special mention here. If a new type of processing is likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of a natural person, you will need to assess the impact of the envisaged processing operations on the protection of personal data. The regulations indicate that your country’s supervisory authority will make public a list of processing operations that are subject to the requirement for a data-protection impact assessment.

What about our existing data?

If your company is processing existing personal data, it still needs to be processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner. Your systems and processes also need to handle it in a way that ensures the appropriate security of the personal data. And you must make sure the data is accurate and, where necessary, to update it while taking every “reasonable step” to ensure that any inaccurate personal data is erased or rectified.

The ability to demonstrate compliance with these requirements is also important.

What about data we get from other sources?

Personal data that was not obtained directly from the data subject still comes under the regulation. You must tell the data subject who you are and why you have collected their data, the categories of data you have collected and how long you plan to hold on to it. This all has to happen when you first make contact with the person or at most within one month of obtaining their data.

What if we need to move someone’s personal data to another country?

Movement of data is particularly complex, and can depend on the intended destination and the reason for the transfer. In some cases moving personal data to countries that do not have sufficient protections in place may require the explicit consent of the person after you have informed them of the possible risks of a transfer. In the context of recruitment, where large volumes of personal data may be stored in resumes, this has the potential to become a real challenge.

What happens if we or one of our vendors are hacked?

Under GDPR, an organisation has a legal obligation to report any breach of security leading to the release of identifiable personal information being disclosed, destroyed, lost, altered or stolen — and must do so with 72 hours of becoming aware of it. Additionally, data subjects have to be notified if the data released poses a “high risk to their rights and freedoms.”

Can someone take an action against us if we do not handle their data correctly?

Yes. An organisation is liable for the damage caused by processing that infringes GDPR. Someone who suffers damage as a result of infringement is given an express right of action under the regulation to receive compensation from the infringing organisation. The burden of proof is on the infringing organisation to prove that it was not responsible for the event giving rise to the damage. Vendors may have specific liabilities for their actions under the regulation, but the proverbial buck — or euro — stops with the data controller.

Is automation using AI and machine learning affected by this?

Yes. GDPR means that the data subject shall have the right not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing and profiling. As the world of AI and machine learning advances rapidly, more and more decisions are being made by computers. This legislation advances protection to data subjects from these type of decisions having a negative effect on them.

Interestingly, “e-recruiting practices” without any human intervention are singled out. Also specifically mentioned is profiling someone in order to analyze or predict aspects concerning their performance at work. As more and more software starts to incorporate algorithmic decision making based on machine learning, this has the potential to really slow down innovation in this space.

The last word

This is a new regulation and as such there are elements that are open to interpretation, and in the absence of precedence it can be difficult to give a black-and-white opinion. However, legal interpretation is relevant and can draw on previous experience of existing data protection regulations. If you’re concerned, then consult your legal adviser on the areas you feel may be applicable to your business.

If you’re interested in reading and understanding the actual regulations they can be found in full here: http://gdpr-info.eu/.

The post What the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation Means for You appeared first on UNLEASH News.

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