The Imperative of Human Resource Business Partners Who Understand Soft Skills

The Imperative of Human Resource Business Partners Who Understand Soft Skills

08-19-19

During most of the 20th century employees were hired by the Personnel Department, where they were screened, had their skills tested and their paper work processed. That department has since evolved to Human Resources and when they screen for skills, they are more often including “soft skills”—critical thinking, creativity, communication, conflict resolution, empathy, ability to problem solve and emotional intelligence–capabilities needed to contribute to the organization’s overall corporate culture and goals.  In fact, research from Harvard University shows that 85% of job success comes from soft skills and only 15% from technical skills. 

In what he terms the Human Resources Reset in an article at  www.forbes.com, Edward E. Lawler III, a distinguished professor of business at the University of Southern California Marshall School of business, writes “There is a great need for the emergence of talented HR professionals who understand complex business strategy and are able to use data about people to impact and advance organizational effectiveness.”    At a time when there is such stiff competition for talent, business leaders do not want to make a mistake in hiring.  It costs too much and takes too much time to undo the impact of a bad hire.  As such, companies worldwide are increasingly looking through the lens of soft skills when hiring or promoting for key positions. For instance, Johnson and Johnson found that in divisions around the world, those identified at mid-career as having high leadership potential were far stronger in soft skill competencies than were their less-promising peers.

This makes sense to me.  Every day I see how “soft skills” increase overall performance.  I see how individuals with high Emotional Intelligence form stronger, more productive teams, how individuals who can think critically and who are creative, are more successful in business development, and how individuals who can problem solve and resolve conflict are highly effective at managing risk. I also see the generative nature of teams of individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence.

But how do we get there?  At The Fedcap Group we are rethinking the role of HR and incrementally building a human resource department that strategically develops and refines its plans for recruitment, training, and compensation based on the long-term business goals of the organization.  We are working hard to build human resource management teams that function as integral business partners, helping each of our company leaders understand their talent needs and recruit and retain employees who possess the right combination of soft skills and technical skills.  We are looking for HR professionals who drive talent needs—not simply fill position requests.

This is not a small undertaking. 

We look for HR professionals who understand the relationship between talent and the accomplishment of organizational goals. We look for HR professionals who understand how to assess for soft skills and can teach others to do the same.  We look for HR professionals who understand the dynamics of the teams they are hiring for, who look for gaps and find talent to fill those gaps. 

Our Human Resource Department is increasingly central to our strategic planning and our short and long-term business success.  

6th Annual Fedcap Golf Tournament

6th Annual Fedcap Golf Tournament

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On Monday, August 12th The Fedcap Group held its annual Golf Tournament at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, New York. Twenty-two golf foursomes played under beautiful summer skies at the highly regarded par-70 course designed by renowned golf course architect A. W. Tillinghast.

The event, attended by over 100 people, netted $60,000 to support young people who are transitioning from foster care and preparing for college and careers.  These extraordinary young men and women, at risk of homelessness and joblessness,  can now be provided with mentorship, high impact internships, and assistance in applying to and graduating from college.

Many thanks to our sponsors – Greenberg Traurig, Ken Raisler, IDB, Benefit Management Solutions Inc., People’s United Bank, Oracle, ABFS, American Paper and Supply, Sterling Sanitary Supply, SAS Maintenance, Platinum Maintenance, and Titanium Scaffold Services.  Thanks also to Quaker Ridge and all our friends and supporters who made this event possible. 

Getting the Pace Right

Getting the Pace Right

Augustus, founder of the Roman Empire famously said Festina lente or “Make haste slowly.” Does this seem quaint today? Or does it still make sense in a 24/7 world moving at the speed of a smart phone? Several years ago, the author and business leader, James Sudakow wrote in a blog that he had participated in meetings “where key leaders are literally working on their laptops on something else during important decision-making processes—not because they are trying to be disrespectful but because there is always something else that is urgently pulling them away.”

As leaders, we all understand this pressure.

Management consultants, McKinsey & Company, in a 2018 blog on leadership by Cornelius Chang and Robin Groeneveld, point out that speeding up isn’t the answer. “Most leadership theories continue to be based on—and most leaders still live and work on—the Newtonian world view where leaders strive to control and structure their challenges and guarantee outcomes. Engaging in a quick discussion and moving as fast as possible from A to B in a controlled and straight line fits this world view perfectly.”

But does that model of rapidly moving from A to B hold in today’s complex environment?

Because we work on many goals and projects simultaneously moving quickly throughout the process, it is crucial that we realize the difference between arbitrary and urgent. Slowing down in a focused way may actually be the path toward achieving the right pace and thereby making the right decisions. The logic that Chang and Groenevld offer: “Accept that your challenges are complex, pace the speed of your work, trust that intelligent, in-depth discussions lead to solutions, and set the right attention and intention by being present and directing your energy.”

As we strive for sustainability, relevance and impact at The Fedcap Group, we see the need for, and the value of, leadership moving at the same pace. We are making critical decisions that depend us being in sync. As leaders we are asking ourselves: Did we take enough time to thoroughly review various scenarios before making a decision? Did we have the right people in the room? Did we allow for differing perspectives to have voice? Did we slow down enough? In a new book called Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed and Thrive in a 24/7 World, published by Business Expert Press, business advisor and consultant Liz Bywater, Ph.D., reminds her readers that being mindful is learning how to be completely focused on present conversations and present realities.

It is crucial that we form a strategy to find a balance to our fast-paced work environment so we can lead with clarity, thoughtfulness, and purpose.

The nine to five world is long gone, a time when we turned off the desk lamp, pushed the chair back under desk, and closed the office door. We now live in a 24/7 world and may still be a bit shaky about how to make it work. Festina lente!

Job Market Welcomes More People with Disabilities

Job Market Welcomes More People with Disabilities

job market

As commercial dryers whirled nearby, Robin Coleman and Nancy Foote folded sheets with precision.

The two tackled laundry and made sure the public areas sparkled at the Fairfield Inn & Suites.

Both women are developmentally disabled and drawing regular paychecks.

“I’m thinking to stay here until we get old,” said Coleman, who turned 40 last week.

This is the first job for both women, who received six months of hands-on, hotel-industry training organized through The Moore Center.

“We would not be here” otherwise, Coleman said. “It was hard to find a job.”

In a tight job market, more companies are turning to those with disabilities to fill job vacancies.

Employment numbers for New Hampshire residents with disabilities jumped 13.4% between a 2009-11 period and a 2017-19 period, according to Dover economist Brian Gottlob, who recently became director of the state’s economic and labor market information bureau.

That compared to only 2.9% growth for people without disabilities during those same periods.

“Optimistically, what it says is the labor force constraints, the very tight labor market, has employers looking in places and at individuals that previously had more difficulty finding employment,” Gottlob said last week. “I think it creates opportunities for the disabled that might not have been as prevalent in the past.”

Manchester’s Moore Center, which assists people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and acquired brain disorders, has about 85 clients working in the Manchester area, including four at the same Fairfield hotel.

“It just changes their aspect of life,” said Miranda Brown, the center’s senior manager of employment services.

Clients have found jobs in dining services, housekeeping, merchandising, manufacturing and maintenance.

“Before they get a job, you build on a lot of social skills,” including resume building and interviewing, Brown said.

This fall, The Moore Center is partnering with the Birch Hill Retirement Community in Manchester, so interns can receive hands-on experience. Saint Anselm College also will be providing an educational component, Brown said.

Fairfield General Manager Kim Hanson said Foote and Coleman have advanced “astronomically” with their social skills and self-confidence since arriving there about eight years ago.

“They take a lot of pride in everything they do,” Hanson said. “(A vacancy in) housekeeping is extremely hard to fill.”

A report by the Institute for Corporate Productivity showed three-quarters or more of employers rated workers with intellectual or developmental disabilities as good to very good on most performance factors, including dependability, attendance and integration with co-workers.

“Coworkers are more productive when surrounded by dependable, motivated workers; job satisfaction declines when surrounded with no-shows, late arrivals, and disinterested colleagues,” the report said.

Early outreach

Some Granite State organizations also are reaching into the lives of younger people with disabilities.

Southern New Hampshire University has partnered with the Manchester School District this summer to help 410 public school students with disabilities, including 200 at the elementary level. It saved the district $7,000.

About three dozen grad students, who each receive a stipend, are in the classroom at three schools with teachers and students, from pre-kindergarten to high school.

Jennifer Harrises, the district’s special education coordinator for secondary schools, said the SNHU involvement — including having some children working with robots and catapults — means “more hands-on and enriched” learning than they would have received in the summer.

“Any time you get children excited about learning and raising opportunities for them, I think you absolutely increase the likelihood of them continuing to learn, continuing to believe they do have a place in the workforce,” said Catherine Stavenger, SNHU associate dean of the School of Education. “They develop that confidence of learning and being a problem solver, and that goes a long way.”

Innovative programs

In New York, a not-for-profit organization called Careers Support Solutions set up 63 summer internships last year with various employers for mostly high school students with disabilities.

Teens without disabilities frequently have summer jobs where they learn job skills and the value of money, so getting those with disabilities into the workforce earlier will get them learning sooner, according to Tina Cornish-Lauria, executive editor of the Valhalla, N.Y.-based organization.

“See what they like and what they’re good at,” she said.

The organization also has a contract with New York State’s education department to run a workforce readiness job club. Students learn soft skills, such as resume writing and job interviewing and how to handle money, Cornish-Lauria said.

 

Last year, Careers Support Solutions started a program, also funded through the state, to help students who are graduating and heading to community college. Employment specialists help with class scheduling and financing and arrange any needed tutoring. They sometimes find students jobs during school or after graduation.

“It would be a model certainly they could work off of,” Cornish-Lauria said, referring to other states.

The organization, which helps people in three counties north of New York City, has placed more than 2,700 people with disabilities in jobs over the past three decades.

In Concord, the Disability Rights Center deals with people with disabilities who don’t get the support they need or face discrimination in the workplace.

“In terms of employment for people with disabilities, I think there are a lot of opportunities,” said Executive Director Stephanie Patrick.

A national group, Best Buddies, offers jobs programs in some offices around the country for intellectually and developmentally disabled people.

“It’s something we’re working real hard to bring to New Hampshire,” said state director Sarra Dennehy.

She said she hopes to receive enough fundraising to start such a program here in 2021.

Best Buddies has secured jobs for 687 people nationwide over the past several years.

Back in Hooksett, Hanson, the Fairfield GM, said Foote and Coleman get along with their peers.

“In regards to getting along with traditional workers, there’s no difference,” Hanson said.

“They joke just as much and razz just as much,” she said, adding, “They may take a little longer to learn the process.”

Foote recently participated in the Special Olympics, bringing home one bronze and three silver medals in track and field. And she enjoys the people she works with at the Fairfield.

America Has a Health-Care Crisis — in Prisons

America Has a Health-Care Crisis — in Prisons

crim jus

Prison is no place to get sick. The nation’s incarcerated population is aging rapidly, with nearly four times as many inmates 55 or over as there were at the start of this century. That’s led to increased rates of diabetes and heart disease, among many other problems. Younger offenders are hardly the picture of health, given their high rates of addiction. Altogether, prisoners make up 1 percent of the population, yet they account for 35 percent of the nation’s total cases of hepatitis C. “They are the most expensive segment of the population,” says Marc Stern, a public health professor at the University of Washington, “and they are the sickest.”

For all the care that inmates need, they’re unlikely to receive adequate medical attention. Over the past dozen years or so, a majority of states have contracted out prison health care to private companies. The leading vendors have all been on the receiving end of hundreds of lawsuits. Some are frivolous, but some have led to multimillion-dollar judgments and court orders to change their practices. It’s a problem that could get worse.

Horror stories of needless deaths abound. From Arizona to Florida, prisoners with cancer have been treated with nothing more than Tylenol. A recent Columbia University study found that 97 percent of inmates with hepatitis C do not receive the expensive medication they need. Inmates routinely have to complain of the same symptoms multiple times before they even get to see a doctor, sometimes waiting weeks. There’s no doubt that prisoners have faked illnesses, and escape attempts during medical transfers to hospitals are a real problem. But too often the default attitude among guards and other staff is that inmates are lying about being sick, says Susan Lawrence, a physician and attorney who has worked in prisons.

Lawrence once had a patient in prison with liver cancer. Staff videotaped him working out in the yard to prove he was a fraud. He died a month after she was finally able to treat him. “The man had had rectal bleeding over a year. It was never taken seriously,” Lawrence says. “They didn’t understand how you can still function with metastasis. ‘How bad could it be? He’s working out. How can he have terminal cancer?’”

States often pay private companies on a per-inmate, per-day basis. That creates an incentive to cut costs. The market forces that discipline private providers on the outside, however, don’t apply in prison. There is no consumer choice. An inmate who doesn’t think medical treatment is up to par can’t switch to another prison, let alone a different hospital. And if the state, not the prisoner, is the customer, state officials don’t always know what they’re getting. Record-keeping is notoriously poor, and in some states, the department of corrections doesn’t even receive annual reports from its vendors.

When prison health care was first privatized in a major way, there was little reliable actuarial data, so it wasn’t clear what a reasonable price structure would look like. Over time, governments figured that information out and started writing better contracts, but that led to shrinking profit margins for vendors.

There have been other stresses on the business model. What was a growth area a decade ago is now stagnant. The state systems and large jails that are likely to privatize have already done so. With few new contracts out for bidding, providers low-ball one another in order to get business. That leaves yet less money available for care.

There’s been considerable consolidation within the prison health-care field. At this point, there are three major players — Corizon Health, Centurion Managed Care and Wexford Health Sources. States unhappy with their services don’t have many other places to turn. In December, Maryland gave its business to Corizon, having grown dissatisfied with Wexford. A few months later, Corizon was replaced by Centurion in Arizona. That state, which is embroiled in legal battles with a federal court about monitoring and performance measures in prison health, has now used all three companies. “It’s like a game of musical chairs, but there are only three chairs,” says David Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “States tend to switch but they can pretty quickly run through all three.”

A change in contractors doesn’t necessarily lead to a change in care. Medical personnel often keep their jobs, particularly at remote rural facilities. The vendors co-opt each other’s staff and cannibalize each other’s business. None of that is good for care. It’s not clear, however, how many prison systems would be able to build their own medical teams back up, even if they wanted to. Having states provide health care themselves is no panacea anyway. Prison health care in California has been under receivership since 2006, when a federal court found that the state’s delivery of medical care did not meet constitutional standards. That’s why Stern, the public health professor, says, “if we focus on [the faults of] privatization, we’re not going to solve the problem.”

Some argue that prison health would improve if it were treated as part of the local community health safety net system. Communities are not immune to what happens inside their prisons, whether it’s opioid addiction or infectious disease. But most taxpayers on the outside don’t see prison health problems affecting their own well-being. The reality may be that treatment for those people society wants to punish will never become a top priority.

Originally Published by Alan Greenblatt in the August 2019 edition of Governing.

The Right Talent as a Catalyst for Innovation and Impact

The Right Talent as a Catalyst for Innovation and Impact

Over the last few weeks, I’ve written about the strategic risks leaders must address to thrive in a competitive environment. Recently, I’ve discussed the importance of creating and sustaining a positive culture that helps drive innovation and change.

Critical to creating and sustaining the right culture is the sourcing, finding, and cultivating the right talent is another key catalyst for driving innovation and impact.  

Our people are our most strategic resource.  We have just implemented a new Human Capital Management system, as employing state-of-the-art technology around talent acquisition and management is critical to recruiting and retaining top notch staff.

The ability to recruit top talent stems from being known as a premier employer and building relationships with feeder institutions such as business, universities and local chambers.  And with that we have developed a description of the DNA of those who are successful in The Fedcap Group.

      • Passionate: They are driven to create/identify and resource the most effective ways to solve problems for people with barriers.
      • Informed: They are current within their respective fields.
      • Credible: When they speak, people listen because of their depth of knowledge and expertise.
      • Smart and Fast: They can see the end result and take quick, thoughtful and decisive action.
      • Creative: They generate innovative and often unexpected answers to difficult problems.
      • Curious: They thrive on new information and opportunities.
      • Dedicated: They run a continuous campaign to advance the position of The Fedcap Group and the people we serve.
      • Understands the concept of “Good to Great”: They constantly look for opportunities to improve the work of The Fedcap Group, searching for best-in-class practices–not reinventing the wheel.
      • Flexible: They are able and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
      • Fun: They take their work seriously, but not themselves.

Once recruited, the interview process demands its own structure and expertise.  When hiring for top positions in the agency, I ensure they spend time with every key leader.  I invite them to one of our “Corp Weeks” – where key staff from throughout the company come to New York to discuss corporate health, emerging trends in our areas of practice, review data about our company’s performance and brainstorm potential areas of innovation.

When I assess talent, these are the things I look for in prospective candidates:

      • How does the candidate think? What is important to them?
      • How does the candidate keep current on trends in their area of focus?
      • What do they see as trends over the next 5-10 years?
      • How do they use information to advance new ideas?
      • How have they made a difference?
      • How have they built effective structure in the past? How do they know they were effective?
      • Is the candidate one who consistently considers “what if?” scenarios?
      • How comfortable is the candidate with ambiguity? And if comfortable, how do they bring clarity and structure to that ambiguity?

The vision, the talent, and the ability of the staff to execute all combine to create the catalyst for driving—and realizing—innovation and ultimately impact in the lives of those we serve—creating a legacy for current and future generations to come.

Research Summary: The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program

Research Summary: The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program

This two-page summary discusses the key takeaways of Professor Heckman’s latest research, “The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program.” The research shows that high-quality birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13% per year return on investment—a rate substantially higher than the 7-10% return previously established for preschool programs serving 3- to 4-year-olds. Significant gains are realized through better outcomes in education, health, social behaviors, and employment.

A past program that’s very relevant today.
Lifecycle Benefits analyzes the effects of two identical, randomized-controlled preschool experiments conducted in North Carolina in the 1970’s: The Carolina Abecedarian Project (ABC) and the Carolina Approach to Responsive Education (CARE). They offered comprehensive developmental resources to disadvantaged African-American children from birth to age five, including nutrition, access to health care and early learning. Children were randomly assigned into either the treatment group or the control group that had access to alternatives such as lower quality center-based care or in-home care. Given that many high-quality programs today include the components central to ABC/CARE, evidence from ABC/CARE is relevant today. About 19% of all African-American children would be eligible for the program today. And, research shows that the negative effects of a disadvantaged early childhood are similar across races.

Rich data provides insight into long-term benefits.
Existing research on the effectiveness of early childhood programs largely focuses on short-term academic gains when it is long-term benefits that provide a more relevant measure of value. Lifecycle Benefits analyzes a wide variety of life outcomes, such as health, the quality of life, participation in crime, labor income, IQ, schooling and increases in mothers’ labor income as a result of subsidized childcare. ABC/CARE collected data on the participants throughout childhood and well into adulthood, allowing for an in-depth analysis of long-term effects in multiple dimensions of human development. From birth until the age of 8, data was collected annually on cognitive and socio-emotional skills, home environments, family structure, and family economic characteristics. After age 8, data on cognitive and socio-emotional skills, education, and family economic characteristics were collected at ages 12, 15, 21, and 30. In addition, there is a full medical survey at age 35 and detailed records of any criminal activity.

The benefits of high quality starting at birth.
Children who received treatment had significantly better life outcomes than those who did not receive center-based care or those who received lower quality care. 75% of the control group children were enrolled in relatively low quality alternative childcare centers, usually after age 3; others stayed at home. Consistent with other research, results varied by gender. For females, ABC/CARE had positive effects on high school graduation, years of education, adult employment and the adult labor incomes of participants and their parents. These treatment results are higher when compared with the alternative of staying exclusively at home. The results for males show lower drug use and blood pressure, as well as positive effects on education and later labor income. The results for employment, hypertension, and blood pressure are higher when the treatment group is compared to the children who attended alternative childcare centers. Separation from the mother and being placed in relatively low quality childcare centers have far more negative consequences for male subjects than for female ones. This suggests that high program quality is necessary to generate quality outcomes.

A two-generation effect on workforce.
ABC/CARE improved the economic prospects of treated children and their mothers, allowing the latter to enter the workforce and increase earnings while their children gained the foundational skills to make them more productive in the future workforce. ABC/CARE provided childcare to the parents of treated children for more than nine hours a day for five years. Only 27% of mothers of children lived with a partner and this status barely changed during the program, making employment critical for upward mobility. Childcare generates positive effects in maternal education, labor force participation, and parental income.

Comprehensive quality care pays off.
While the costs of comprehensive early childhood education are high, the rate of return of programs like ABC/CARE implies that these costs are good investments. Every dollar spent on high-quality, birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children delivers a 13% per annum return on investment. These economically significant returns account for the welfare costs of taxation to finance the program and survive a battery of sensitivity analyses. The cost of ABC/CARE was $18,514 in 2014 U.S. dollars. The average cost of childcare alone in the United States ranges from $9,589 to a high of $23,354 with few assurances of the quality necessary to generate quality life outcomes for children.

A call to do more and better for disadvantaged children.
Child poverty is growing in the United States; investing in comprehensive birth-to-five early childhood education is a powerful and cost-effective way to mitigate its negative consequences on child development and adult opportunity. Elements of the ABC/CARE program exist today through a number of often disjointed home visiting, child well-being, nutrition, early learning, childcare and preschool programs. Policymakers would be wise to coordinate these early childhood resources into a scaffolding of developmental support for disadvantaged children and provide access to all in need. The gains are significant because quality programs pay for themselves many times over. The cost of inaction is a tragic loss of human and economic potential that we cannot afford.

The Long Term: Sustaining a High-performing, Positive Culture

The Long Term: Sustaining a High-performing, Positive Culture

07-29-19

Last week, I wrote about the importance of creating a culture by focusing on the things we value most and being deliberate about translating that focus into behaviors that reinforce our key tenets. This week, I examine the keys to sustaining a positive, high-performing culture.

Culture can sometimes be described as a “soft” aspect in an organization. But in fact, culture is driven by “hard” organizational components—including infrastructure, data, reporting and analysis, talent acquisition and management, risk management, financial stewardship, and day-to-day communications.  Each of these components must be aligned with the values and vision of an organization in order for the culture to stay consistent.  

As I wrote last week, accompanying these “hard” aspects of culture are the vision and the ensuing expected day-to-day behaviors that sustain positivity.  Sustaining a positive culture is, in itself, a body of work that requires reinforcing the vision, breaking the vision into expected behaviors, clearly articulating what those behaviors look like, acknowledging and encouraging the named behaviors, and calling out those that do not reflect the named culture. It means naming the values as a part of our job descriptions, performance reviews, and articulating them in ongoing one-on-one and team meetings.  

Also essential is an ongoing and consistent process for measuring adherence to the values that comprise our culture.   Every one of us is responsible for upholding the vision and the behaviors that accompany that vision.   We are all “owners” of the business—in other words, we are stewards of our vision, our values, our behaviors, and the structures that embody our culture.

Who we are internally reflects who we are externally to every stakeholder—from vendors to corporate and contract partners to every constituency we serve.  Our culture and the accompanying structural and behavioral building blocks are the keys to organizational success, credibility, and our ability to manifest the Power of Possible in concrete and measurable ways—leading to better lives for those we serve.

I welcome your thoughts. 

Shifting Culture as a Strategic Imperative

Shifting Culture as a Strategic Imperative

07-15-19

The building of a culture requires a thirst for knowledge about what is….”   J. Bennett

Last week, I wrote about the imperative of establishing an organizational culture that embraces change as an essential key to managing strategic risk and accomplishing organizational goals. Over the next few weeks, I will be examining the mechanisms for identifying and analyzing organizational culture and ways to systematically shift the culture as required.

Shifting culture is not necessarily easy—but it is possible—and it can be done with the right process that is emphasized and supported over time. That process includes: 1) clearly identifying and acknowledging the prevailing culture; 2) setting a vision for culture and establishing accountability mechanisms to advance expected behaviors; and 3) ensuring that our employees are acknowledged and supported as they begin to make the necessary behavioral and attitudinal shifts.

Acknowledging the prevailing culture: As leaders, we must be aware of the prevailing culture. This means that we understand what is happening two, three, four layers down in the organization.  Some leaders may make the mistake of assuming that the way people treat them, respond to them or interact with them is the norm across the agency.  Often it is not.  

I do this in several ways. 

First, we talk about culture and its inextricable link to organizational success.  I make it a point of talking with our senior leaders and staff how an innovative, responsive and data-driven culture is a foundation for successfully carrying out our long-term strategy.  That successful and high-performing organizations have a culture that is purpose-driven, performance-focused, and principle-led. 

Then I ask—how do we compare?  I make no assumptions but instead invite feedback and honest assessment from employees by asking very specific questions that speak to culture—sometimes in quick and informal settings and sometimes in more formal gatherings.

I call for honesty around what might be identified as subterranean cultural issues that might interfere with the organization achieving its goals.  For example, I ask…do people respond in a timely manner to one another?  Does the field feel supported by corporate services?  Do they get the information they need, as rapidly as they need it to do their work, manage their budgets, hire good people? I work hard to create a safe place for people to speak directly to the issues of culture and engagement. With every conversation, I listen carefully. This listening establishes trust, which in turn, engenders direct and honest feedback. I want to hear it all. Sometimes I hear things that are difficult or in direct contrast to the kind of culture that is required for success. I invite the truth, and I am not afraid to hear it.  I encourage senior leaders of the organization to be equally as inquisitive, as interested in the day-to-day experiences of their staff.  And I want to know what they learn. 

This learning provides us with the opportunity to act.   We have a sense of where there are gaps—in communication, trust, accountability, and delivery of expected results—and we can respond. 

As we continue to explore culture next week, I will speak to the setting a vision and establishing accountability mechanisms to advance expected behaviors at the leadership and line staff level.