Category Archives: Human Capital

Enterprise has a huge opportunity to embrace and mainstream wearable technology

A recent PwC study shows that companies are already putting wearables to work in the workforce. In an era where workplace loyalties are fragile, use of wearable technology in employer-sponsored health and wellness programs can lead to a healthier and thereby more productive workforce. Implementation of wearable tech could have very clear implications for a company’s bottom line— opening the door for enterprise to subsidize the use of wearable devices amongst both employees and consumers.


The world in three colors: blue, green and orange

I just took PwC’s quiz on the #futureofwork. They say I’m a Green world person.  

The projections in this report build on the work started in 2007 by a team from PwC and the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation at the Said Business School in Oxford, who came together to develop a series of scenarios for the future of people management. The result was three ‘worlds of work’, which provide a lens through which to examine how organisations might operate in the future.

Which world do you belong to?


Knowledge Management and Virtual Teams Management (Romanian)

Today I talked at ZF Live about Knowledge Management and Virtual Teams Management. The show was triggered by an online training I have delivered for Mediafax Group which was recently launched. The training is available at and you may find the recording of the TV show below (NB: both of them are in Romanian only):

Social media in HR

Social Media Week 2012 SP
(Photo credit: Fora do Eixo)

The Internet has changed fundamentally since 15 or 20 years ago. Web 2.0 is now the magic word: information no longer flows in one direction from the sender to the receiver; instead users now generate their own content. This has created new opportunities that can also add value for HR departments. For example, stay-in-touch programs make it possible to maintain contact with former employees via social networks. And students can keep their fingers on the pulse of companies they’re interested in thanks to the Twitter newsfeed.

A recent PwC study clearly shows that, if social media are implemented correctly, they can add value in the field of HR.
Nevertheless, a well thought-through decision-making and implementation process is needed to ensure success. The results also bring to light which hurdles and stumbling blocks an HR team may encounter while trying to successfully implement social media, and what they should pay particular attention to.

There are a few actions which are of use for every HR department, irrespective of sector or focus:

  • Get an overview of the platforms and their possible uses so you can find the most suitable platform for your purposes. Your company may already be represented or being discussed on certain platforms – perhaps among customers, perhaps among (potential) employees.
  • Create space so that your company can gather experiences with social networks. Don’t try to ban social networks and online communities from the workplace – thanks to smartphones, you’ll never succeed anyway. 
  • Develop a strategy for using social media. Set rules so that social media are used consistently throughout the company. Don’t only consider HR, but work closely with your PR, marketing, production and compliance departments as well. Don’t set your strategy in stone, otherwise you won’t be able to respond to short-term developments. 
  • Set clear boundaries for the use of social media. It’s time-consuming and therefore costly to update social media. Concentrate on the platforms that are relevant for you – that way you can make more out of less. 
  • Make use of the know-how within your company, hold training and brainstorming sessions and allow your employees to feed in their personal experiences with social networks. You’ll be surprised how much knowledge you already have within the company. 
  • Provide sufficient human resources and equip staff with the necessary skills. It takes time to keep content up to date and communicate with users. Employees entrusted with these tasks need to be able to process input from outside the company quickly and flexibly. 
  • Integrate social media into your existing HR processes. The new media shouldn’t be managed in isolation, but should be actively linked to onboarding, development and alumni processes, for example. This helps create a consistent and uniform experience.

Team management and motivation

I’m working these days on developing a course on managing virtual teams so I’ve taken some time to think about what I do and how I do it.

During the last financial year, the service I’m managing recorded growth of 65% (compared against an ambitious target of 20%). Consequently, delivery time has been reduced and… here comes a shock for any academic: quality has improved! Any theory would tell you that, if you reduce delivery time and increase work load with the same resources, quality will drop off.

What made the difference? I would rather say it was the motivation of each team member. On my side, I did not stay to check each of their tasks but I rather encouraged flexibility and efficiency over bureaucracy and strict rules. I transferred much of the assessment from my own review to the final beneficiaries. They are the ones to say if the work was good and to what extend. Interim and final financial year results are transparent, including individual rankings: most of poor performance has been corrected the moment they saw their place. I’ve not used financial incentives as motivation factors and I think of “carrot and stick” as being a manipulation theory rather than real inside motivation.

I had a look over the research performed during the last years on motivation and Dan Pink’s message from a TED presentation got my attention:

Welcome to the virtual team!

For some years I’m coordinating an international team spread out in Europe, Middle East and India. Cultural differences, dissimilar time-zones and communication difficulties due to jarring accent of the English language are all granted. However, the major challenge does not appear here, nor in terms of technology, but rather in the area of ​​personal motivation. I wrote a piece of article on managing a virtual team for HR Magazine which you can find online here. A copy of the printed version is here.

Unfortunately it is only in Romanian so my apologizes for my English readers. I’ll more likely come back with this subject at a later time.

Many stereotypes about Millennials are merely… not true

A recent comprehensive and global generational study was conducted by PwC, the University of Southern California and the London Business School. It’s the largest sudy of its kind ever conducted (more than 40,000 responses, 300 interviews and 30 focus groups) and it looks into the aspirations, work styles and values of “Millennial”/”Generation Y” employees (those born between 1980 and 1995). I found particularly interesting some of the findings:

Many – but not all – stereotypes about Millennials are untrue.

Despite a reputation perhaps to the contrary, the Millennial generation have grown up not expecting their organisations to meet all of their needs, including job security. Despite a natural aptitude for electronic forms of communication, email and social media platforms are not always Millennials’ communication vehicles of choice. Also, despite a common perception that Millennials are not as committed or hard working as non-Millennials, the study effectively revealed they are as equally committed to their work

Millennials say that a strong cohesive, team-oriented culture at work and opportunities for interesting work—including assignments around the world—are important, even more so than their non-Millennial counterparts.

Millennials place a high priority on workplace culture and desire a work environment that emphasises teamwork and a sense of community. They also value transparency (especially as it relates to decisions about their careers). They want and need the support of their supervisors, and also want the chance to explore overseas positions. Non-Millennials express similar attitudes, but not to the same degree as Millennials.

Millennial attitudes are not totally universal, although there is significant commonality between the United States/Canada and Western Europe.

For example, Millennial workers in every PwC firm around the world aspire to have greater work/life balance. However, the issue is particularly important for Millennials in the more developed economies of North America and Europe and in the East region. Additionally, we discovered in a few countries that cultural norms can ‘trump’ Millennial views that surfaced elsewhere in the world.

While the same basic drivers of retention exist for both Millennials and non-Millennials, their relative importance varies.

Millennials have a greater expectation to be supported and appreciated in return for their contributions, and to be part of a cohesive team. Flexibility in where they work and how much they work is also a key driver in Millennial satisfaction. This view differs in importance from that of the non-Millennial generation, which places greater importance on pay and development opportunities.

Millennial employees are not alone in wanting greater flexibility at work.

Millennials want more flexibility, e.g. the opportunity to shift hours to night, if necessary. But so do non-Millennials, in equal numbers. In fact, a significant number from all generations want a flexible work schedule  so much that they would be willing to give up pay and delay promotions in order to get it.

The study is available here.

How do “gaming techniques” address the disengagement challenge?

The application of game-based design to human factors is an extension of business process improvement efforts. During the last 20 years, enterprises have focused on improving most business processes by establishing consistent ways of performing and consistent data descriptions for those processes. How employees think and feel about the work (what’s called engagement) has not been part of this process improvement. The more the human part of work moves online, the easier it is to capture and study how it is performed and how to improve it.

The body of scientific research around human motivation is substantial, but some of the most relevant research for online environments is informed by gaming. In contrast to other business verticals, the gaming industry has been fully attuned for decades to the challenge of motivating users. The industry is now starting to directly share its knowledge with other businesses.

Ryan, the self-determination theorist, confesses, “I got into this field, in part, because I was impressed by the motivational power that games had. Most people in psychology were looking at the negative effects of video games because of overuse and other side effects. I thought, if people are overusing video games, we need to know what’s motivating them.”

Through trial and error, the best game designers managed to crack the motivation code needed for successful gaming environments. One central element of their success is their focus on intrinsic motivators and the associated mechanics used to deepen engagement.

Within the past several years, vendors such as Bunchball have taken the simpler mechanics of games into online business environments and mapped those to the potential motivators they could tap.

The figure below illustrates the interaction of basic human desires and gameplay. The red dots signify the primary desire a particular game mechanic fulfills, and the gray dots show the other areas that it affects. Each human desire listed is tied to deeper intrinsic motivators, including autonomy, competence, and relatedness of self-determination theory. Rewards come when underpinned by intrinsic motivators, gain more effectiveness.

The Game Mechanics

These game mechanics and design strategies provide ways to motivate the disengaged. As long as they’re well thought through, the use of game mechanics can be helpful in a range of applications. Online business environments, like gaming environments before them, are now becoming laboratories for experimentation.

Mario Herger, technology strategist and community manager at SAP Labs, points to four traditional and emerging business concerns that are seeing the most adoption: marketing and branding, training, community management, and human resources. PwC gives some examples in the last issue of Technology Forecast.

Gallup survey results show consistently high levels of workforce or customer disengagement. These results don’t necessarily indicate that enterprises aren’t interacting with user constituencies. But they do indicate that the nature of the interaction is shallow and uninspiring. As Fulton points out, more interactions should include more feeling as well as thinking and learning components.

Online environments offer unprecedented opportunities to stimulate user engagement, but adoption of the mechanics to encourage greater engagement has been slow. Emotion and overall responsiveness are lacking from many online business environments. So it’s no wonder that users have been disengaged. The good news is that there are numerous proven techniques from the gaming industry that everyone else can build on.

The future is now: remote workers in the knowledge times

Do you think the days when new hires will not come into the office for training is far away? I’ve done it two years ago and I’ve done it again these days. It’s true it was an internal hiring but all training has been delivered virtually: video conferencing and practice based assessments. Some eLearnings are also on their way… Because the rites of social media are so familiar to many employees, I can establish working relationships faster than ever with members of my remote teams.

As a recent McKinsey study shows, virtual approaches to work are attractive to a wide array of employees, including working mothers, older workers, and younger, Generation Y professionals who want flexible lifestyles from the start. Younger workers are often particularly suited to work remotely, having grown up socializing and collaborating online. “They don’t want to work 9 to 5,” says Bonny Simi, vice president of talent at JetBlue, “and it doesn’t matter to me if they work better from six at night until three in the morning or if they can do the work in six hours instead of eight.” (McKinsey Quarterly – “Preparing for a new era of knowledge work”).

Employers first began ramping up their use of remote-work arrangements in the 1990s. As technology evolved, companies such as IBM found they could eliminate permanent offices for their sales force and other customer-facing employees. Consulting companies also made a better use of “open-spaces” since partially their staff have to be on client site anyway.

Such moves yielded huge cost savings on real estate while increasing the time consultants could spend with customers. Now, thanks to broadband, cloud computing, and a burgeoning market for online collaboration tools, many more jobs that once required “face to face” interactions can be performed anywhere. These jobs range from insurance claims processors to law associates and corporate workers in functions such as finance or knowledge management.

In fact, by some estimates perhaps one-quarter of all US jobs could be performed remotely, and in McKinsey’s 2011 survey of 2,000 US businesses, one-quarter of them said they planned to use more remote workers in the future. Are you going to be one?