Should For-Profit Companies Hire Social Workers?

Should For-Profit Companies Hire Social Workers?

As digital technologies become more prominent in how organizations work, employers are balancing the need for employees with digital and other hard skills with the need for employees with “soft” social, interpersonal, and communication skills. In fact, employers are increasingly prioritizing social and emotional skills; McKinsey, for example, predicts that skills such as communication, pattern recognition, logical reasoning, and creativity will be in high demand in the coming decades.

With these soft skills in high demand, Jake Bullinger proposed in a recent article at Fast Company that for-profit organizations consider hiring trained social workers to fill that need. Bullinger talks to Michàlle Mor Barak, a University of Southern California social work professor, who notes that companies today require expertise in societal good as they are increasingly under pressure to prioritize things like corporate social responsibility, work-life balance, and diversity and inclusion which weren’t on their radar a few decades ago. Social workers and other experts in social and emotional issues could be particularly helpful in people management and community engagement, Bullinger writes:

A human resources department staffed with therapists could better handle harassment claims, and recruiters working with social scientists could better target minority candidates. Corporate philanthropy arms would benefit, one can surmise, from case workers who understand a community’s greatest needs. The people best suited to run diversity and inclusion efforts might be those who study diversity and inclusion for a living.

I graduated with a master’s degree in social work in 2005 and have spent most of my career working in for-profit organizations. From my vantage point, social workers can provide an array of benefits, but organizations need to be realistic about what they can and can’t do.

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The Ups and Downs of Coaching for Low Performers

The Ups and Downs of Coaching for Low Performers

One of the central debates in performance management is whether it is worthwhile for organizations to invest in improving the work of low-performing employees, or whether it makes more sense to focus on high performers and high-potentials. Recently, some major companies have started exploring ways to help low performers remedy the quality of their work, such as Amazon’s “Pivot” training program, launched in January, which provides coaching to employees on the company’s performance improvement plan. At HRE Online, Mark McGraw explores the pros and cons of coaching strategies like Pivot:

“Part of the reason that Amazon or any company might adopt this type of program for low performers is to send a message,” says [Daniel] Stewart, president of Stewart Leadership, a Portland, Ore.-headquartered talent management and leadership development consultancy. “And I have to admit, my gut reaction is that the message they want to send is not necessarily geared toward the employees in the program. They might want to let ‘the street,’ shareholders, know that they value the people who work for them.” …

“The organization is saying, ‘We hired you, therefore we believe you have something to offer,’ ” says Stewart. “That’s a meaningful thing to say, because, if Amazon or anyone else wants to hire someone, they want that person to succeed. So why not invest, as appropriate, in making sure they’re leveraging that person’s ability and potential in the right way?”

Other experts, however, believe that stronger employees should be the main targets of development programs:

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ReimagineHR: Common Challenges in Learning and Development

ReimagineHR: Common Challenges in Learning and Development

At CEB’s ReimagineHR event in London on Thursday, CEB Principal Executive Advisor Clare Moncrieff led a peer benchmarking session for around 30 learning and development leaders (along with some executives with other profiles who are involved in L&D at their organization) to discuss the challenges they faced and share success stories and ideas about how to meet those challenges. The conversation focused on two key issues:

How do we measure the impact of L&D?

A quick poll of the room revealed that half the organizations represented in the room used “smile sheets” to gauge the effectiveness of their L&D programs, while fewer than a quarter performed ROI analysis and a few measured impact through testimonials or by looking at engagement or time to promotion. The conversation that ensued focused mainly on the difficulty of measuring the ROI of learning and what strategies the participants had found to do so.

One organization found that for their leadership program, measuring the cost of developing a leader internally against the cost of hiring one from outside was the most accurate. Their ROI analysis also includes other metrics like communication and productivity, which this participant said were more subjective but also showed a positive impact. Another participant, whose organization’s L&D program is focused specifically on building digital skills throughout the company, said they had simply applied the same principles they used to measure the ROI of marketing campaigns, including sales metrics and sentiment analysis.

There was some debate over the usefulness of 360-degree performance reviews. One participant said their organization used 360s at the start and end of a learning process to measure its effectiveness, but another noted that at their organization, they found that with too many 360s, scores tend to go down even as real performance improves. To correct for that glitch, they use a more targeted “180” at the end of the program, focusing on learners’ direct managers and functional leads, and getting feedback both on the quality of the program and the performance of the individual employee.

One participant asked a particularly intriguing question: Why measure ROI at all? Do we need to prove that L&D is useful, or are we wasting time measuring the obvious? One of their peers, with a background in operations, said their organization took what they called a bolder approach to measuring impact: They collect the usual feedback on how learning programs went, but use engagement scores as a metric, comparing the engagement of employees who did and did not take part in an L&D program or event. At the end of the day, if the program is effective, it should be having an impact on these measures, and that impact should be independent of market factors such as might influence other metrics such as sales performance. Another participant from an organization that employs a lot of science and technology professionals pointed out that L&D is part of their attraction strategy for these employees, so ROI is about more than direct, specific learning results.

What is the best way to develop leaders?

Asked which critical talent segment they were most focused on developing, half the attendees in the session said leaders. When Clare asked how many participants felt confident about their leadership development program, not a single hand went up, so this led into a discussion of the challenges they faced in designing and executing L&D programs specifically for leaders.

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Debunking the Myths of Queen Bees and Wannabes in the Workplace

Debunking the Myths of Queen Bees and Wannabes in the Workplace

The stereotype of the “queen bee” insinuates that women who seek out and obtain power—whether in the workplace, in politics, or even in high school—tend to hurt rather than help their female peers, keeping other women down in order to preserve their own privileged positions. Sheryl Sandberg, who knows a thing or two about being a powerful woman, is having none of that; in a New York Times op-ed co-authored with Wharton professor Adam Grant, Sandberg debunks the myth that women don’t help each other:

According to the queen bee theory, a female senior manager should have a more negative impact on the other women trying to climb into professional ranks. When strategy professors studied the top management of the Standard & Poor’s 1,500 companies over 20 years, they found something that seemed to support the notion. In their study, when one woman reached senior management, it was 51 percent less likely that a second woman would make it.

But the person blocking the second woman’s path wasn’t usually a queen bee; it was a male chief executive. When a woman was made chief executive, the opposite was true. In those companies, a woman had a better chance of joining senior management than when the chief executive was a man.

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