When Generalists Are Better Than Specialists, and Vice Versa

HBR STAFF/wragg/Getty Images

What’s the best way to boost creativity on your team? There’s really no simple answer. Even the research is split on the best approach to take.

One view is that the key to creative breakthroughs is being able to combine or leverage different areas of expertise. After all, every innovation somehow recombines or reimagines things that already exist.

Many studies have found that the best ideas emerge from combining insights from fields that don’t seem connected. For example, Charles Babbage’s invention of computational machines powered by punch cards, the foundation of modern computers, was inspired by Babbage’s knowledge of the silk-weaving industry, which used cards with holes to create patterns in the silk fabric. Similarly, Henry Ford’s revolutionary idea of the car manufacturing assembly line was inspired by Singer sawing machines and meatpacking plants.

Based on this thinking, you might try to make your team more creative

Continue reading "When Generalists Are Better Than Specialists, and Vice Versa"

The Barriers to Recruiting and Employing Digital Talent

hbr staff/Yury Vinokurov/EyeEm/Getty Images

Finding digital talent is one of the biggest challenges facing companies today. But it’s particularly difficult for large, traditional firms, especially those which operate in consolidated, non-growth industries (think pulp and paper, steel, airlines) and which are often located away from the metropolitan areas where data scientists live.

Because these firms tend to have slim margins and cannot pay Silicon Valley salaries, many have had to get creative in their recruiting and employee development. In our work with a dozen industrial firms in Germany and Scandinavia, we’ve studied how they try to increase the digital skills of their workforces — from creating accelerators to training internal talent — and we’ve observed how some of these common strategies present their own difficulties.

These are the three biggest challenges we’ve seen:

Integrating digital talent into the core business

Many companies are creating accelerators or other separate units responsible for

Continue reading "The Barriers to Recruiting and Employing Digital Talent"

3 Transitions Even the Best Leaders Struggle With

malerapaso/Getty Images

We love to read about the dynamics of success. We study it, celebrate it, and try to emulate how successful leaders rise to the top. I’m no different: I’ve spent my career helping executives succeed, either through coaching and development or assessments of their strengths and opportunity areas to identify the development work they need to do to take their careers to the next level. But even as I’m drawn to success stories, I have found that the greatest lessons come from examining failure.

For instance, my last research effort looked into how elite executives make a successful transition to the C-suite. As I worked through the interviews, I found that executives whose careers had been derailed shared many commonalities. Specifically, I found that C-suite executives are vulnerable to career failure when they are in the midst of one of three common transition scenarios.

1.The leap into

Continue reading "3 Transitions Even the Best Leaders Struggle With"

What’s Holding Women in Medicine Back from Leadership

Reza Estakhrian/Getty Images

For over 25 years, women have made up at least 40% of U.S. medical students. This past year, more women than men were enrolled in U.S. medical schools. Yet overall women make up only 34% of physicians in the U.S., and gender parity is still not reflected in medical leadership. Women account for only 18% of hospital CEOs and 16% of all deans and department chairs in the U.S.—positions that typically direct the mission and control the resources at medical centers.  Women are also in the minority when it comes to senior authorship (10%) and Editors-In-Chief (7%) at prestigious medical journals.

Reasons for gender disparities in the C-suite of medicine are manifold. For example, women do not achieve promotions or advancement to leadership positions at the same rate as their male peers.  Highly qualified women do

Continue reading "What’s Holding Women in Medicine Back from Leadership"

How Johnson & Johnson and American Express Are Developing Young Leaders

Hero Images/Getty Images

Over the next decade, approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers will retire every day. Young leaders will have substantial opportunity to climb the corporate ladder — by 2030, millennials alone will comprise three out of every four individuals in the U.S. workforce — and companies will increasingly grapple with how to accelerate the development of those individuals for leadership positions.

We heard this leadership dilemma from multiple companies that participated in our research on the leadership perspectives of C-suite executives and millennial leaders, which was co-produced by our three organizations, The Conference Board, RW2 Enterprises, and DDI. The study examined the management and development preferences of America’s young and rising corporate leaders.

When the research showed the growing premium that companies place on high-speed development, we decided to follow up with some of the study’s participants to hear more. The accelerated development programs at American Express and Johnson

Continue reading "How Johnson & Johnson and American Express Are Developing Young Leaders"

Companies Can Address Talent Shortages by Partnering with Educators

Bernhard Lang/Getty Images

Although it’s hard to pinpoint when skills shortages became the norm in the U.S., one widely acknowledged indicator of a crisis in the making appeared in 1983, with the release of “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.” This groundbreaking report, commissioned by President Ronald Reagan, concluded that the U.S.’s “once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world.”

“Our goal,” it stated, “must be to develop the talents of all to their fullest.”

Unfortunately, this goal hasn’t been met. The talents of all are not being developed to their fullest, and many U.S. industries face acute skills shortages.

Although unemployment is now lower than it’s been in more than 15 years, 6.7 million Americans remain unemployed and many more are underemployed in low-paying jobs. Meanwhile, according

Continue reading "Companies Can Address Talent Shortages by Partnering with Educators"

Dual-Career Couples Are Forcing Firms to Rethink Talent Management

Jennifer Petriglieri, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, asks company leaders to consider whether they really need to relocate their high-potential employees or make them travel so much. She says moving around is particularly hard on dual-career couples. And if workers can’t set boundaries around mobility and flexibility, she argues, firms lose out on talent. Petriglieri is the author of the HBR article “Talent Management and the Dual-Career Couple.”

Download this podcast

Why Staff Turnover in the White House Is Such a Bad Thing — Especially For President Trump

Martin Barraud/Getty Images

The Trump Administration has a historically unprecedented rate of turnover of the senior staff, and it shows no sign of abating. This level of disruption would be difficult for any organization to handle. But these difficulties are compounded in the unique environment of the White House — and, for reasons I’ll elaborate on, may be especially difficult for this administration.

While there’s been a lot of coverage on the fact of the record-setting personnel turnover at the Trump White House, there hasn’t been much analysis of its likely costs. To put it bluntly: we know there’s a lot of turnover at the Trump White House, but does it matter? Is it a bad thing?

The short answer, according to decades of organizational research, is: yes and yes. High levels of senior executive turnover are difficult for any organization to absorb. Every senior leader has his or her

Continue reading "Why Staff Turnover in the White House Is Such a Bad Thing — Especially For President Trump"

The Best Way to Network in a New Job

David Crockett/Getty Images

Anyone who hopes to hit the ground running in a new organization must first cultivate allies—a network of people who can provide the information, resources and support needed to succeed. But few onboarding programs offer concrete advice on how to build those all-important connections.

Our research over the past decade shows that replicating the network of an established employee in a strong culture typically takes three to five years. But recently we began to wonder if there was a way to accelerate that process. Could we develop a better blueprint for newcomer networking?

We started by tracking people joining companies with employee bases ranging from a few hundred to more than 40,000 people and pairing their progress in making social connections with monthly attrition data.  The goal was to find newcomers who got connected (and productive) much more quickly than peers starting at the same time

Continue reading "The Best Way to Network in a New Job"

Employee Surveys Are Still One of the Best Ways to Measure Engagement

vincent tsui for hbr

Once upon a time, surveys were a staple for every leader to solicit feedback and every company to assess engagement. But now, surveys are starting to look like diesel trucks collecting dust in the age of electric cars. Companies are using cool new machine-learning algorithms that crunch big data to measure employee engagement through email response times and network connections outside one’s core team, and forecast turnover risk by tracking signals like how often employees update their resumes. Who needs a clunky, time-consuming survey where some employees only tell you what you want to hear, and others don’t bother to respond at all?

You do.

For decades, having regular employee opinion surveys has been on evidence-based lists of high-performance HR practices. Our internal research at Facebook suggests that for three reasons, it would be a big mistake to abandon them today.

1. Surveys are still

Continue reading "Employee Surveys Are Still One of the Best Ways to Measure Engagement"

How Volvo Reinvented Itself Through Hiring

Gerald Lord/Getty Images

Many legacy companies would like to transform themselves into agile, talent-first organizations. But when some CEOs in this position look at the people they employ, they discover a problem: a swath of their existing team doesn’t have the necessary skills or metabolism for change to meet the new challenges.

Developing what we call an “M&A strategy for talent” is one way to overcome this. Volvo’s turnaround over the last decade offers a great example. For years, Volvo was a brand stuck between a rock and a hard place. Its cars didn’t match up well with those of top luxury brands like Mercedes, BMW, and Audi, yet the company lacked the capacity to compete with mass-market leaders like Toyota and GM. Under new ownership (Volvo was sold to China’s Geely by Ford in 2010), the Swedish automaker decided to transform its product line by becoming a premium player.

Continue reading "How Volvo Reinvented Itself Through Hiring"

For Women and Minorities to Get Ahead, Managers Must Assign Work Fairly

Vincent Tsui for HBR

Organizations have been trying to improve diversity in the workplace for decades — with little success. The most common techniques, such as one-time sensitivity trainings, haven’t worked. The numbers of women and people of color in leadership roles are still staggeringly low across industries. Also well documented are the high rates of turnover for women, especially women of color.

We need to try some new techniques, starting with making systemic changes to the ways businesses are run. These don’t have to be big changes — in fact, even small tweaks to your basic systems (hiring, promotions, compensation) can lead to big changes. For many companies, the focus so far has been on making small adjustments to how performance evaluations are done. This is important but insufficient, because evaluations are inherently backward-looking: They can measure only the assignments someone has already gotten.

And not all assignments are

Continue reading "For Women and Minorities to Get Ahead, Managers Must Assign Work Fairly"

Case Study: Should an Algorithm Tell You Who to Promote?

nicholas blechman for hbr

Aliyah Jones was having trouble paying attention to the farewell toasts. Although she was sad to see her longtime colleague, Anne Bank, go, she was more consumed with trying to figure out who should replace her.

As a VP of sales and marketing for Becker-Birnbaum International, a global consumer products company, Aliyah knew she needed a talented marketing director to support her division’s portfolio of 34 products. After working with HR to narrow down the list of candidates, she had two finalists, both internal: Molly Ashworth, a brand manager on her team in the cleaning division, and Ed Yu, a rising star from BBI’s beauty division.

Aliyah liked Molly and respected her work. Two years earlier, Molly had spearheaded a new subscription service for BBI cleaning products, which had, despite a slow start, shown strong growth in the past two quarters. Customers seemed to love the

Continue reading "Case Study: Should an Algorithm Tell You Who to Promote?"

You Can’t Hire Your Way to the Future. Instead, Leave No One Behind. – SPONSOR CONTENT FROM PWC


PwC image for sponsor content post

It’s the conundrum of the digital age: almost as soon as your company has fully implemented a new digital initiative, it’s on the verge of becoming obsolete.

Should you just move faster? Hire a more digitally savvy workforce and force them to move at lightning speed? Maybe. But the first step—and the most important—is to look closely at, and invest in, the human capital you already have.

Call it a “leave no one behind” strategy. If it sounds drastic, it is—for the future of your company. Your employees probably don’t have the skill sets they’ll need to successfully take on the digital and technological change ahead—change that is ever evolving.

You could have the best strategy and the latest technologies, but you can’t execute if your people lack the right digital skills. As it stands, 84 percent of CEOs are concerned about the pace of technological change; 76 percent

Continue reading "You Can’t Hire Your Way to the Future. Instead, Leave No One Behind. – SPONSOR CONTENT FROM PWC"

Does Your Firm See You as a High Potential?

Jay Conger, a leadership professor at Claremont McKenna College, goes behind the scenes to show how you can get on, and stay on, your company’s fast track. He demystifies how companies (often very secretly) develop and update their list of high-potential employees. And he discusses five critical “X factors” his research has shown are common to high-potential employees. Conger is the co-author of the new book, The High Potential’s Advantage: Get Noticed, Impress Your Bosses, and Become a Top Leader.

Download this podcast

You Don’t Have to Be a Data Scientist to Fill This Must-Have Analytics Role

Artur Debat/Getty Images

It’s no secret that organizations have been increasingly turning to advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve decision making across business processes—from research and design to supply chain and risk management.

Along the way, there’s been plenty of literature and executive hand-wringing over hiring and deploying ever-scarce data scientists to make this happen. Certainly, data scientists are required to build the analytics models—including machine learning and, increasingly, deep learning—capable of turning vast amounts of data into insights.

More recently, however, companies have widened their aperture, recognizing that success with AI and analytics requires not just data scientists but entire cross-functional, agile teams that include data engineers, data architects, data-visualization experts, and—perhaps most important—translators.

Why are translators so important? They help ensure that organizations achieve real impact from their analytics initiatives (which has the added benefit of keeping data scientists fulfilled and more likely to stay on,

Continue reading "You Don’t Have to Be a Data Scientist to Fill This Must-Have Analytics Role"

When More Women Join the Workforce, Wages Rise — Including for Men

Don Farrall/Getty Images

The increase of women in the paid workforce was arguably the most significant change in the economy in the past century. In the U.S., women’s participation in the labor market has nearly doubled, from 34% of working age women (age 16 and older) in the labor force in 1950 to almost 57% in 2016. When it passed 50% in 1978, working women became the norm.

Yet although the female labor force participation rate has been rising steadily in the country, it has not done so evenly across cities. In places like Gadsden, Alabama, and Punta Gorda, Florida, less than half of working age women (46% and 42%, respectively) were in the paid workforce in 2010; cities like Madison, Wisconsin, had 73% and Fargo, North Dakota, had more than 75% (the highest in the nation) of women in the workforce. There is also significant variation within

Continue reading "When More Women Join the Workforce, Wages Rise — Including for Men"

Why We Modeled Our Hiring Process on the NFL and NASA

hank walker/life/Getty Images

What’s the best way to assess elite talent — those people you expect to play a critical role in your organization’s success? Most management experts would say in-depth interviews, reference-checking, and work sample reviews. Some forward-thinking companies might even use “auditions.”

But at Citadel and Citadel Securities, we’ve decided to go a step further. Inspired by the rigorous and competitive group tryouts you see employed by the Navy in its SEAL program, by NASA in its astronaut selection, and by the NFL in evaluating rookie recruits, our company has decided to host regular “datathons” — contests in which undergraduate and graduate students who we would consider for artificial intelligence, technology, and data science roles at our firm have the chance to compete for a cash prize, while we use observable and measurable criteria to evaluate their performance.

Why move so far beyond traditional HR

Continue reading "Why We Modeled Our Hiring Process on the NFL and NASA"

Here’s Why Strategy Chiefs Succeed or Fail

alicemoi/Getty Images

Why is it that some companies have great heads of strategy who make an outstanding contribution to their companies, while others don’t? To answer this question, we evaluated 55 heads of strategy, and looked more closely at 11 who were particularly successful and 10 who were at the other end of the spectrum. The full findings are contained in this white paper. But here’s a synopsis of what we learned.

The person’s capabilities should fit the challenges facing the organization. Consider Staples, the office supplies retailer, which tumbled from being the market leader to being one-third of the new leader’s size. The existing management team had not addressed a range of issues, including required changes to store sizes, the product range, and which geographies the company focused on.

So founder and CEO Tom Stemberg hired John Wilson as head of strategy and chief financial officer. Wilson was an

Continue reading "Here’s Why Strategy Chiefs Succeed or Fail"

The 3 Essential Jobs That Most Retention Programs Ignore

park troopers/unsplash

For more than a decade, leading human resource strategists have hit on a recurring theme: You want your star players working in the roles that matter most to the business. For example, in 2009 professors Brian Becker, Mark Huselid, and Richard Beatty estimated that in most companies less than 15% of jobs are what they call strategic positions and said management should focus “disproportionate investments” on finding A players for those jobs. USC’s John Boudreau, CEO adviser Ram Charan, and consultants at Bain & Company, McKinsey, and Korn Ferry have made similar arguments.

Building on these ideas, we have identified six leverage roles where you want to make sure you have — and keep — your highest-caliber people. But over and over again in our three decades of experience as talent development and retention specialists, we’ve seen that companies consistently overlook half of them. As a result,

Continue reading "The 3 Essential Jobs That Most Retention Programs Ignore"