Social Mindset: A Key to Engaging People

It is more than obvious now that the way people feel about their workplace has direct material impact on performance of the business. This simple equation gets even more complex when we think of forces that are fundamentally changing how we work. Our workplace conversations today are dominated by topics like increasing globalization, economic uncertainties, automation, disruptive innovations, social technologies, generational shifts, mobility, people analytics, gig economy and such.

Newer generations at workplace demand different experiences and therefore, organizations are challenged constantly to move beyond traditional engagement programs and think of engagement more holistically. There is plenty of conversation happening today around moving from employee engagement to employee experience, role of design thinking in driving people experiences and creating a differentiating employer brand experience.

These are all worthy topics to take the conversation of talent engagement forward but I think that none of this will be effective in engaging talent unless we address something very fundamental underlying all of these ideas. We live in social, hyper-connected and super-transparent world and therefore, adopting a “social mindset” is and will remain a killer app for engaging people.

Social mindset is about focusing on people more than focusing on process and having a belief that magic happens when:

  • We create ecosystems where good people can thrive
  • People are aligned to purpose and are clear about how their work contributes to larger objectives
  • People have tools and communities to learn what they want to learn and when they want to learn
  • Leaders play an active role in building ecosystems for high performance

Real engagement happens when we focus, not on generating engagement, but doing right things that increase human engagement.

To be able to adopt a social mindset, leaders need to be equipped with deep understanding of how social, networked and self-evolving structures work. Only then can organizational leaders facilitate effective engagement of talent to meet organizational objectives. This is conversation that goes way beyond HR teams focusing narrowly on “employee engagement programs”. This is a more holistic conversation, and one that really engages talent by integrating work design, culture, rewards, learning and career development to deliver superior employee experience. Let us take a deeper look at how social mindset enables each of these and what it means in practical terms:

Work Design: People need a conducive space to perform and how work really gets done is a key driver for engagement. Technology advances have transformed how work is performed and designing work in a way that engages people is a real challenge and opportunity. Organizations have to relentlessly clarify purpose, how an individual’s work enables achievement of purpose and provide autonomy to team members to execute their ideas. People derive sense of control when they have space to do the work in their own unique way and execute their ideas. Social mindset plays a huge role in enabling people to perform. Traditional “once-a-year” feedback mechanisms only disable people. Real enablement happens when people get frequent feedbacks and support throughout the year. Enablement is also about involving people in collaborative problem solving, making goals transparent, seeking their feedback and most importantly, acting on that feedback. The design of organization and work should enable and encourage people to pursue non-linear career paths. Reducing organizational layers, building small teams and empowering them to self-organize go a long way in engaging talent on a longer run.

Alignment and Clarity: In an information intensive world, real empowerment to people is all about seamless communication across different clusters of organizational network. When communication channels are open, people have greater opportunity to clarify their concerns, know the strategic direction and align their local decision making accordingly. Organizations are increasingly using enterprise social networks like Yammer, Microsoft Skype for Teams and Slack to facilitate these critical conversations. Using social tools to not just broadcast but engage in a dialogue is a great way to also build a compelling employer brand. Communication and clarity across the board works like grease to reduce friction, enable clarity and therefore, improve engagement.

Social Learning: People who get the required support to do their work better tend to be better engaged. We have moved beyond traditional one-way forms of training (learning events) to continuous streams of on-demand learning (learning journey) that combine synchronous and asynchronous forms of learning. People don’t go to classrooms when they want to learn – they go to corporate learning management systems, micro-learning platforms like Twitter, Enterprise social networks like Yammer and so on. Enabling social learning is about encouraging people to share their work, get feedback, align their practices and learn from these experiences. It is about building communities of practice and encouraging people to work out loud. For this to happen, leaders have to set the right example and become engaged social learners themselves. When organizations get this right, they build a solid employer brand (reputation) while engaging with their prospective talent pools on external social networks.

Creating Ecosystems of High Performance: Real engagement happens when people are able to play to their potential and deliver superior performances. Effective leadership that works hard to build trust, respects people, engages in seamless conversations and treats people as colleagues and not as “resources” goes a long way in building a performance culture. Social mindset and leadership is about building a fabric of relationships between clusters of networks in organization to facilitate collaboration and performance. It is therefore so vital for leaders to walk an extra mile to clarify goals, communicate, build relationships, foster trust, deliver feedback early and often and set right examples.

Social mindset has existed in our societies and communities since ages but often forgotten in the maze of organizational layers, tight bound hierarchies, complex processes and boxed responsibilities that inhibit shared understanding and learning.

Human beings are fundamentally social and therefore, understanding of how social structures work is easy. It is all around us.

It is often in doing things we know that we stumble the most!


This article originally appeared as Cover Story in PeopleMatters Magazine April 2017 Edition


Also check out: Happy to have contributed a sketchnote to the re-published version of “The Best Leaders are Constant Learners” by Kenneth Mikkelsen and Harold Jarche at HBRAscend.in – a Harvard Business Review publication.

5 C’s for Great Talent

What do you look for when you look for talent?

Competence is the key to solving problems but competence alone is not sufficient for success. In current context, I would define talent as a combination of competence, commitment, learning agility, attitude/character, communication skills, ability to collaborate across different cultures, critical thinking and creative problem solving.

Back in 2010, I interviewed John Spence on this blog when he released his new book titled Awesomely Simple – Essential Business Strategies For Turning Ideas Into Action. The book offers great ideas to simplify work life which I often refer.

In the same year 2010, American Management Association released result of their Critical skill survey which outlined Creativity, Communication, Collaboration and Critical Thinking as key skills for future success.

In the book, John defines business success as a combination of culture and great talent, and further offers 5 C’s of Great Talent, which I found very useful. 

Here is a quick sketch note version of 5 C’s of Great Talent.

Related Reading at QAspire: Skills For Future Success in a Disruptive World of Work

#Sketchnote: Bold #HR by Josh Bersin

For anyone working in HR, learning and leadership space, the Global Human Capital Trends Report 2015 by Deloitte University Press is a must read. It outlines the key challenges faced by businesses today and confirms that it is the soft stuff (culture, engagement, leadership and learning) that is actually hard for most businesses, large and small.

The report ends with a note,

Make 2015 a year of bold leadership in helping your organization thrive in this new world of work.

In his related post titled “The Four Keys to Bold HR: Lessons for the Year Ahead”, Josh Bersin defines what BOLD really means to leaders in HR space (and elsewhere).

Here is a sketch note version of key ideas from the post:

Also read:

The Future of HR – Evolving HR Function to create significant value for the business given current and future business trends – a research by Accenture.

Insights and Lessons on Critical Thinking, HR and Leadership Development

 

In American Management Association’s critical skills survey 2012, respondents emphasized on 4 C’s (Critical thinking and problem solving, Effective Communication, Collaboration and team building and Creativity and innovation) as their key priorities for employee development, talent development and succession planning.

I have been exploring the topic of critical thinking with respect to HR, Talent Acquisition, Leadership Development, Communication and Training via series of posts at Pearson’s TalentLens Blog (@ThinKritical on Twitter). The premise is simple – if we improve how we think, we will improve how we develop people, innovate, solve problems and grow as individuals and organizations.

Here is a round up of all posts (with excerpts) written on this important topic so far.

Why Hiring Critical Thinkers is Absolutely Critical for HR

With people being at the core of an organization’s greatness, it is extremely important for HR professionals to pay attention to two things – that existing people are trained to think critically and people are hired based on their ability to think critically.

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Problem Solving in Organizations: A Diamond or a Coin?

Leaders are expected to take right decisions after considering various facets of a given problem – just like an expert jeweler looks at a diamond. Logic looks at problems as a coin with just two sides where as critical thinking is all about looking at the same problem as a diamond with multiple facets.

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10 Most Important Traits of a Leader Who Thinks Critically

Ability to think rationally and critically is one of the most important leadership skills and for the leader, thinking objectively is not just a skill, but also an obligation to the people they lead.

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Training and Development: 4 Ideas to Build a Culture of Critical Thinking

The reality is that training middle managers on critical thinking skills is much like teaching an adult to ride a bicycle. It takes patience, training and practice to be able to master the art of critical thinking which, in turn, leads to good decision making.

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3 Ways Critical Thinking Improves Emotional Quotient of Your Leaders

The fact is that a leader needs a fine balance of emotion and rationality to succeed. They need to connect with their people using emotion and decide what is best for them using rational thought. Critical Thinking is the connecting link between emotions and intelligence.

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Critical Thinking – Leaders, Know Thy Biases

Critical thinking is an antidote to cognitive biases. When we think critically, we recognize our own assumptions, evaluate arguments and draw conclusions.

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How Critical Thinking Helps in Effective Conflict Resolution

The truth is that conflicts, if managed well, are an opportunity to understand better, get to the root causes, introspect, improve and learn. A well-managed conflict often leads to improved clarity, better relationships and win-win situations.

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Creativity and Critical Thinking: Friends, Not Foes!

There is a difference between creative thinking and creativity. Creative thinking is the process of ideation (thinking). Creativity is about bringing that idea to life (execution).

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Critical Thinking: The Soul of Effective Communication

If communication is defined as a meaningful exchange of information, thoughts and feelings between two living creatures, critical thinking is the engine that provides this meaning.

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BONUS: Don’t miss the guest post “Environment is Everything” written by Mr. Gurprriet Siingh, Director and Head, YSC India, an executive coach, blogger and a social media influencer. His Twitter handle is @JoyandLife.

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Critical Thinking and Talent Development: A New Blog

Traditionally, career success was linked with 3 R’s (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) but in American Management Association’s critical skills survey 2012, respondents emphasized on 4 C’s (Critical thinking and problem solving, Effective Communication, Collaboration and team building and Creativity and innovation) as their key priorities for employee development, talent development and succession planning.

Organization suffers when leaders take decisions purely based on their emotion, assumption, perception or a bias without questioning them. It can sometimes prove fatal. One of the most important agenda for HR Professionals today is to assess and develop critical thinking skills of their people.

Pearson TalentLens India has launched a brand new blog that delves deeper into critical thinking and talent development. I am so happy to be a contributing author to this initiative where I share insights at the crossroads of critical thinking and talent. In their own words,

Effective leaders have never been in greater demand and critical thinking skills never so sought after. The Critical Thinking India blog is an online meeting place, to help you stay on top of sophisticated decision making and problem solving as a professional and gain the critical thinking edge in the 21st century workplace.

Here are a few snippets from posts I have contributed so far.

With people being at the core of an organization’s greatness, it is extremely important for HR professionals to pay attention to two things – that existing people are trained to think critically and people are hired based on their ability to think critically.

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An organization thrives on people and decisions they make. An organization grows (or doesn’t) one decision at a time. These decisions, ranging from strategic ones to tactical, are taken by people at all levels in the organization. The foundation of a right decision is based on one of the most important skill of 21st century – critical thinking.

Please take a look and read the posts I have contributed. You can also follow conversations related to critical thinking on Twitter at @ThinKritical

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Why Managers are Catalysts in Managing and Developing Talent?

 

Most businesses today are talent driven businesses – skills and competence of people developing products and providing services is at the core of an organization’s differentiation strategy. Talent management and people development should be at the top of an organization’s strategic agenda given the need to improve productivity and effectiveness. Everyone agrees that people development is important, yet clear ownership of doing so is often missing.

Why is this a challenge?

Because managers look at people on their team as tools to get their tasks done. Because managers are only made accountable for generating business results only and not for developing people. Because managers excessively rely on some “training and development” department that is far away from day to day realities of how a business operates. Because leaders think that training and/or certification is the only way to develop skills of people.

The truth is: managers are the ones who communicate with people every single day, assign work in line with capabilities of people, provide the resources that people need to get the job done and guide the performance of people. This proximity with people (and their skills) makes a manager, an ideal owner for development of people within an organization. This is also true because people learn the most by working and experiencing, and less by training alone. But a 2008 research by Hewitt and Human Capital Institute reveals that less than 10% of managers are held accountable for development of people and less than 5% are competent enough to develop others.

What can be done?

I think, the first step towards building a managerial culture around people development is to start at the top. If top leadership takes active interest in developing managers at various levels, that drives one expectation clearly: that we are all responsible for developing people we lead.

The second step is to make managers accountable for people development. Developing people should be an integral part of every manager’s KRA and managers should be given the required space to develop others.

The third step is to help managers in developing people. This is where HR/Training teams can provide interventions. This can include critical areas like assigning right people to right tasks, building a team with complementary skills, improving collaboration, building trust through mentoring, providing feedback and build environment of learning and growth for everyone on the team. In fact, managers should be hired based on demonstrated skills in these areas.

The deliverable of a manager, in my view, is two sided: one is the business results and other is developing people while they deliver these results. The only way to thrive in a competitive environment is to constantly expand people’s capability to deliver and innovate. A manager’s ability to build a culture of continuous learning and develop people equals better bottom line results and higher employee engagement and retention.

Join in the conversation: Do you agree that managers should be responsible for developing people? Have you seen an exceptional manager who focused on growing others? What did you learn from that manager?

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