Sticky Note Post It Board Office
One major consequence of our increasingly digital society and economy is that the next great business idea really can come from anywhere. Companies are increasingly taking this lesson to heart and looking for ways to solicit ideas from their entire community of employees, not just those formally dedicated to the development of new business. Last week, Digiday’s Max Willens took note of this trend in the media, observing the innovative techniques publishers are using to generate product ideas, such as a “Shark Tank”-style competition Politico tried out last summer:
Politico joins other publishers that are turning to their own employees to develop new revenue ideas. Before it was acquired by Meredith last fall, Time Inc. ran a similar internal competition that attracted nearly 60 submissions from employees. The Globe and Mail in Toronto and New York Daily News have run their own accelerator programs for years. Those programs have resulted in The Globe and Mail’s Workplace Awards, a profitable award and events program, and an ad-viewability tool at the Daily News.
Finding new sources of revenue has become a top priority for publishers everywhere. But in these cases, the goal is also to instill entrepreneurial thinking in a mature industry.
This concept is being tried in many industries, not just publishing. In our recent and ongoing research at CEB, now Gartner, we’ve seen many organizations turning to their employees through these types of ideation programs—some of which are much more effective than others. As you might imagine, inviting entire workforces to generate ideas can result in a certain amount of idea or information overload. The more interesting solutions we’ve seen guide employees to focus on and share the most helpful kinds of ideas, creating a sort of self-filtering mechanism.
At the Harvard Business Review, Kellogg School of Management professors Sally Blount and Shana Carroll describe two key conversations leaders need to have with their employees before implementing a change agenda: namely, identifying the sources of resistance to change and then persuading the resistors. When it comes to identifying the resistors, they point to three common reasons why people resist:
Even if you’ve done your homework and have engaged a broad range of stakeholders in determining the new direction for your organization, team, or project, there are undoubtedly going to be people who disagree on substantive grounds. … A second universal source of resistance is the human need for respect, which frequently heightens during periods of change. This is especially true of employees who have been with an organization for a long time or have held a good deal of influence at some point in the past (and believe they still do). …
Another reason people might resist is simply because they are feeling rushed. They don’t have enough time to digest the new direction or cope with the situation emotionally.
At Training Magazine, Brandon Hall Group‘s principal learning analyst David Wentworth laments the dearth of measurement in learning and development functions:
Brandon Hall Group’s 2016 Learning Measurement Study found that few organizations are collecting metrics that help link learning to organizational and individual performance. In fact, only 6 percent of companies are truly measuring all different types of learning with an eye on business results. … More than 25 percent of survey respondents said they are doing only basic measurement or essentially no measurement of all. Approximately half are at what we call the Standardized level, where an array of metrics is collected and basic reports are run, but without much analysis or ability to link learning results to performance.
This lack of measurement effectiveness is evidenced by the study results, which show that companies are not very good at measuring learning that is not formal in nature, and they rely far too heavily on basic metrics such as completion rates and smile sheets. This shortsightedness is keeping these companies from building learning into a strategic influencer of the business. The study also finds that organizations perhaps should not be so concerned with the specific ROI of learning, but rather learning’s impact on business outcomes.
Wentworth’s final point—that businesses need to start thinking less in terms of ROI and more in terms of performance—is incredibly important, and applies to the challenges many organizations are facing in making effective use of talent analytics in all functions, not just L&D.
Two-thirds of organizations perform ad hoc reporting or descriptive analysis and many of them believe their next step should be investing in advanced data tools and technologies. However, these investments will yield minimal gains if teams are unable to translate data into insights that line leaders can act on. Our research at CEB shows that the best organizations build the right analytics capabilities and processes among their staff before investing heavily in analytics technology—they recognize that they can only reap the full value of technology when they have identified the right business problems and improved the HR team’s ability to use talent data to solve those problems.
For their new book, Stop Spending, Start Managing: Strategies to Transform Wasteful Habits, management professors Tanya Menon and Leigh Thompson surveyed a group of executives and asked them to estimate how much money their companies lost each day due to people problems, “from interpersonal conflicts and unproductive weekly staff meetings to hiring the wrong employees and investing in training programs that don’t work.” In an excerpt from the book at the Harvard Business Review, they reveal, “We expected our study to reveal significant waste. However, we were not ready for the magnitude of the results”:
In the course of a day, the executives estimated wasting an average of $7,227.07 per line item per day, for a total of $144,541.30 per day, summing each of the twenty points of waste. That’s an astounding $52,757,574 of lost value and potential per year per organization on people problems. These are perceptions rather than scientific measures, but they reveal significant amount of lost value.
Other studies reveal similar waste. For example, in one study, American employees reported spending 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict, amounting to approximately $359 billion in paid hours, or the equivalent of 385 million working days in the country as a whole. Further, 25 percent of employees said that avoiding conflict led to sickness or absence from work, and nearly 10 percent reported that workplace conflict led to project failure.
We also know from CEB’s Global Talent Monitor that people problems are among the primary drivers of attrition. People management has been the third strongest attrition driver for quite some time now (behind future career opportunity and compensation) and manager quality is usually not too far behind on that list. So, on top of these perceived day-to-day costs of people problems, organizations also are at risk of huge additional costs should disgruntled employees leave: The cost of turnover isn’t exactly chump change.
US News and World Report’s Lauren Camera recently highlighted a new paper from Colorado State that finds “calculus is 1.5 times more likely to discourage women than men from continuing on in their chosen STEM field—not because of their ability, but because of confidence in their ability”:
Before taking Calculus I and after finishing the class, researchers asked roughly 5,000 students from across the country about their interest in and intention to pursue a STEM degree, their test scores, preparation, learning experience, plans and backgrounds. Those who continued on to Calculus II were considered to “persist” in the STEM track.
Of the students who switched out after Calculus I, when asked why they decided against taking Calculus II, most of the possible explanations – including reasons like “too many classes” or “not needed for their major” – fell equally across the genders except for one reason. Of those who had been planning to major in a STEM area, 14 percent of men who switched out listed “I do not believe I understand the ideas of Calculus I well enough to take Calculus II” as a reason compared to 35 percent of women. But in reality, the researchers found, fewer than one in five of the departing students of either gender received grades that would have prohibited them from continuing to Calculus II.
To be sure, interest in STEM careers at early ages is about equal, with about two-thirds of fourth grade boys and girls stating an interest in science. However, of graduates entering careers in STEM, only one quarter of them are women.
Ugh! Another study with results blaming women’s confidence for gender inequalities. First of all, I think it’s crazy that we’re in a place where we’re still having conversations along the lines of: “Surprise! It’s not women’s ability that blocks them from the STEM pipeline; it’s something else!” That people still question women’s ability to excel in calculus, in STEM careers, or really in anything, is honestly fairly depressing.