Crossing Borders Mini-Stories
Learning from the Mafia
Is your organisation using the best experts on the market?
We condemn their illegal activities, but they do handle quite a few elements better than the legal business world: the classic hierarchy of the Mafia has been replaced by a loose network structure. Depending on the project, they look for the best experts (e.g. a hologram artist who fakes IDs on a credit card). And they are increasingly collaborating with competitors to expand their services globally and to be two steps ahead of the (often border-crossing) police.
Learning from football
How does your HR department do talent scouting?
In the professional sports world, it is quite normal for scouts to analyse the market. Especially in the world of football, the performances of players and teams are closely monitored in a scientific way. Talent Spy is an organisation which has analysed the performance of over 140,000 players from 6400 clubs. With 180 talent scouts, they scan the best football talents worldwide and then sell the data to interested clubs.
Learning from the Army
Do you know what knowledge and experience your employees have?
The US Department of Defense has more than 7 million employees (both active and reservists, and even retired people). They have a record of each person's skills, qualifications and experience (both inside and outside the organisation). This way, they can - despite the gigantic database - relatively easily put the right person (or the right team) in the right place.
Learning from influencers
Who are the real influencers in your organisation?
ONA stands for Organisational Network Analysis, a system that maps out informal relationships and their influence. The real influencers emerge and a picture of the hidden silos is created. Three types of data are examined: communication (who talks to whom), mood (your perception and feeling of the people around you) and transactions (what kind of things do you exchange?). The info is collected through questionnaires, but also through passive data such as e-mail, geolocation and other technologies.
Engagement thanks to a clear why
How can you make your employees fulfil your customers' dreams?
Efteling doesn’t sell admission tickets, but memories, experiences and meaningful moments. The why of Efteling has been the same since the organisation was founded: let visitors forget their daily lives for a while. Every employee can make a difference, as the goal is very clear. Even the director sells some fries now and then to be close to the customer. So every day the employees feel that their contribution matters.
Engagement from the start
Do your employees get the chance to share their experiences after 100 days?
With Chrysostomos or Hundred Days, senior high school students celebrate the fact that they only have 100 days left to go to school. What if we introduced a variant of this with new employees: what did they notice during the first 100 days at their new job? What do they find positive? What do they want to change? After all, during the first 100 days, you have not yet been shaped by the rules and culture. As HR and manager, enter into a dialogue to capture this fresh perspective.
Engagement thanks to transparency
How can your organisation be more transparent for its employees?
More and more organisations are abandoning control & command where only the leaders have access to all information. Transparency increases involvement. You can start small by giving access to more information, perhaps together with a training to interpret the information. Open-book management can lead to employees better understanding how the financial numbers work and taking action to influence them. Some organisations (such as Morning Star) even let employees determine their salaries.
Engagement thanks to trust
What would your organisation's manual look like if you deleted the rules?
Tesla employees receive an Anti-Manual Manual at the start. There is no focus on rules, everything is based on trust. The most important message is that Tesla employees are different. The manual includes things like the ability to communicate with anyone (feel free to send Elon Musk a message - if relevant), having fun and the responsibility to make Tesla a success.
Productive employees thanks to lessons from Formula 1 teams
Make your organisation as fast and agile as a Formula 1 team
The common goal of a Formula 1 team is crystal clear: win the next race. The cars are in fact driving prototypes and every week 1000 little things are changed because everyone can adjust one tiny thing from his knowledge and expertise to make the car faster. Necessary requirements: transparency of data for everyone; learn from mistakes and improve; cross-functional teams; autonomy and authority for the frontline people.
Satisfied employees thanks to 'Just Wonder'
Do everything just a little differently and a little better every day.
Every month, 3000 people apply for a job at Cool Blue and that is largely due to their company culture. For example, there is a 'Friends' value that stimulates employees to not only be colleagues but also to consider themselves as friends. And the 'Just Wonder' value aligns with the obsessive focus on customer satisfaction. They strive to amaze their customers throughout the entire product purchase process. For the employees, this is the most normal thing in the world.
Human employees thanks to a personal touch
Literally show that employees are involved
Doctors and nurses, who are dressed in coveralls every day in the Jessa Hospital to take care of COVID-19 patients, now wear a cheerful photo of themselves on their gowns. That way the nurses do not all look the same to the COVID-19 patients (and it reduces anxiety). It also helps the colleagues to recognise each other faster in these protective suits.
Boost the wellbeing of your employees and customers
Show as an organisation that you care about the welfare and happiness of your customers
In the Philippines, Coca Cola temporarily halted all their advertising to use the budget in its entirety to provide COVID-19 aid to the worst affected regions. The budget is used to provide protective clothing for health care workers and food parcels for vulnerable families. Are there any initiatives you can take to improve the well-being of your employees or customers right now?
Select one HR process that you can radically simplify. And do it.
Most employment contracts are formal and extensive. At Tony's Chocolonely they have reduced their employment contract from 8 pages to 1 page that looks more like an infographic than a boring contract. The most important legal things that need to be covered are there. The rest is based on trust and common sense. There is also a second page with their own values and promises to the new employee.
What HR activities can you make pandemic-proof?
A job agency from Dendermonde has started with walking applications. Because of the coronavirus measures almost all job applications are done via video calling, but they invite the candidates and do the job interview outside. A big advantage is that they get a lot more non-verbal communication that is lost during a video application. An additional advantage is simply having a nice chat in the fresh air. And you stand out in the market.
Working from home
How can you creatively support your employees in working at home?
The tour operator TUI offers companies workations (working while being on holiday) for their employees: teleworking from a holiday destination, without losing your annual vacation leave. For certain employees who cannot go to the office, it can be a nice change to do their work abroad (in a safe zone, of course), where they can relax in the evening in a holiday atmosphere. The workation will also enhance creativity and productivity.
Cross sector collaboration
In which organisation would you like to spend some time learning?
There are more and more initiatives for learning beyond the walls of the organisation: job rotation outside the company. Your job, my job, for example, is an exchange programme of communication professionals between various Dutch government institutions. This project leads to a professional exchange of knowledge and experience. This not only benefits the employees, but also the organisations: subjects are looked at from a fresh perspective.
Change thanks to Fun
Which activities can you give a higher 'fun' factor so that employees positively change their behaviour?
The Fun Theory is an initiative by Volkswagen that aims to positively change behaviour by introducing the 'fun' factor (e.g. a piano staircase (that makes music) to encourage people to take the stairs instead of the escalator). Or what about the lottery for respecting speed limits in traffic? A speed camera recorded the speed of all motorists. Instead of giving a fine to offenders, a lottery ticket was registered for each person who respected the speed limits.
Change by necessity
How can you fight the NIMJD syndrome in your organisation?
In the initial phase of the coronavirus, care institutions had all hands on deck with one goal: to care for COVID patients. There was no room for the NIMJD syndrome (Not In My Job Description). Doctors took on nursing duties. Specialised care professions, such as occupational therapists and physiotherapists, were suddenly also on the shop floor. SWAP teams departed from hospitals and provided support for the tests in residential care centres. Nothing prevents us from taking a more open-minded look tomorrow at how to fill tasks more flexibly, taking into account the talents of employees.
Change due to scarcity
Do you see opportunities for 'frugal' innovation in some HR processes where resources are scarce?
‘Frugal' innovation is about eliminating non-essentials to create a simple, sustainable, affordable solution. The greater the constraints, the greater the need for creativity. In India, there is a clay fridge with a simple manual cooling system as many people do not have access to electricity. Or in Kenya, 50% of the population make payments using their mobile phone as the vast majority of the country does not have a bank account.
Change by breaking down the layers of management
What would happen if senior management were to go out on the shop floor more often?
Brady Pyle had been Deputy HR Director at NASA for 3 years and was looking for a way to broaden his experience. Instead of seeking that experience higher up or elsewhere, he decided to spend 9 months leading a small group of engineers. He describes it afterwards as a wonderful learning experience. The 'ambitious' plans from senior management seldom reached the real executives in the right way, which naturally led to resistance and miscommunication.
Your problem has already been solved
Which industry has certain procedures that would fit in well with your organisation?
The Sint-Maarten Academic Hospital in Mechelen was looking for a way to promote the importance of safety procedures in operating rooms among its staff. To this end, it worked with a Flight Safety Officer from an airline to introduce the 'check-check, double check' principle. Three staff members filmed a video in the cockpit of the plane to get the message across in a fun way.
The wrong room
What would such a wrong room look like in your organisation?
The wrong room is a patient room where mistakes have been made intentionally: is the patient wearing the right shoes, is the bed in the lowest position, is the alarm bell plugged in? Two people enter the room each time: a nurse and a physiotherapist who are given 10 minutes to discover the 20 mistakes in the room. They also have to indicate why it is wrong and then receive feedback on their actions and explanations.
Nudge for nature
What nudges can you think of to subtly encourage your colleagues to behave in a positive way?
Nudging (nudge) literally means ‘gently encouraging someone'. Most gentlemen know what the fly on a urinal means - a fine example of nudging. At Virgin Atlantic Airways, they have combined the methodology of nudging with gamification to reduce air pollution. Pilots receive weekly information about the amount of fuel they use per flight combined with personal performance targets. The results speak for themselves: fuel emissions have been drastically reduced.
Everyone must know everything
Are there any 'all-rounders' in your organisation who can be placed in any department to take over certain basic tasks?
Submarine Marines are the most highly trained people in the navy. Every employee must know, be able to maintain and repair every system and component of the submarine. And that is not easy because these training courses are often very technical and the technology is constantly changing. This way, everyone has the right skills to respond adequately in case of emergencies.
As an HR leader, how can you build bridges between departments?
Good leadership is about transcending departments and building bridges. These leaders speak the language of different groups. A good dose of curiosity combined with an open mind can help transcend silos. Help your people by asking more questions so they broaden their own perspective and thereby reveal new opportunities. In a digital consulting firm, their consultants didn't just talk to the IT director, but deliberately engaged with other parties in the organisation - precisely to uncover the real challenges.
Leadership lessons from Jazz
What can you as an HR leader learn from jazz improvisation?
In the world of jazz, there are 4 leadership principles that can also be translated to business: alternating leadership; really listening; improvising and putting your ego aside. In successful companies, the leadership (not always formal) also switches to the person who has the most expertise in a particular area. Employees' ideas are actively listened to. Leaders take into account that plans can and will change. And the interests of the organisation take priority over personal interests.
What qualities can you encourage in your leaders of the future?
Five qualities for moving from directive to supportive leadership: have a living, inspiring mission. Continuously listen to your employees on how to improve your organisation. Destroy the ivory tower (no more status symbols and private privileges). Dare to ask for help because that also stimulates the motivation of others. Trust your employees and do not micro-manage.
In what area can your organisation be more transparent?
Transparent communication is crucial if you want to lead a successful organisation. Open data that is available in real-time to everyone in the organisation is perhaps the ideal form of transparency, but you can also achieve a lot by making certain decision-making processes visible and holding monthly town hall meetings. Another possibility is to share your vision on leadership and other topics with your employees (and possibly the rest of the world). For example, entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly writes personal stories on his blog - which is also visible on the company website - about his challenges and vision.