Is Your Talent Strategy A Competitive Disadvantage?

By: Chris Leech, February 13, 2018

Businesses often focus on building a competitive advantage via product differentiation.  When accomplished it can be very rewarding, however, in today’s rapid technological pace the fast followers will erode that advantage quickly.  In 1985, a Harvard Business School Economist by the name of Michael Porter clearly established two different types of competitive advantages.  Companies can gain by focusing on being the low cost leader or through ongoing differentiation.  He was also clear on the point that trying to accomplish both simultaneously will result in mediocrity due to their conflicting nature.  There is however one very common thread between the two, effective resource and capability utilization. more…

Open Feedback Tools Take the Lead in 2018

By: Lynée Miller, January 30, 2018

Business values are the company’s identity.  Many companies focus on technical competencies, but overlook the bottom-line competencies that make the well-oiled machine high-powered.  Employers expect excellent performance from their employees.  Obtaining open and recurring feedback serves as a foundation for identifying development chances for the individuals.  Open feedback, or open text tools, make it possible for leaders to realize more precise measures on development needs.  Additionally, the open feedback tools also provide data to the leaders on their own contributions toward success within the organization.  Having the open feedback responses helps leaders focus on not only their priorities as the leader for the business, but also building a rich environment with good values.

Connectivity has never been more important in the business world.  Leaders are focusing on more human interaction.  These interactions drive creativity and relationships.  Companies have worked long and hard to find and acquire their top talent, the next stage is to measure happiness and engagement.  Open feedback tools provide big insight on the individuals and also provides for rich opportunities to perform real-time coaching.

Using open feedback tools often acts as a pulse to obtain valuable information from employees.  Identifying the health of the employees is critical for sustainability.  When using the open feedback tools, make it fun.  Change the questions each time the survey is sent, but keep the straightforward focus on your goal to measure happiness. Consistency in listening to, developing and showing appreciation keeps the employees gratified and happy. Engagement, culture and pulse surveys are just a few means of anonymous methods an employee may use to express their feelings and concerns without risk of retaliation or feel unheard. Anonymous feedback ensures every employee is given an equal vote on every question asked. Open feedback tools are a useful vehicle to deliver information, helping leaders with inclusion, respect and empowerment of individuals.

As Fydor Dostoevsky quoted, “The greatest happiness is to know the source of unhappiness.”


The Power of Learning

By: Nancy Keyser, January 17, 2018

Like many people, I love to learn. It is not surprising that Learning is one of the 33 core behaviors measured with our assessment tools here at The Devine Group. In fact, it’s fascinating to see how organizations consider learning in their discussions of how a candidate might fit a particular role. In our world, the learning behavior is a measure of both:

  • Interest in advancing knowledge, skills and abilities, and
  • Determining which style of learning is most effective for an individual.

Much research has been done on how to understand learning styles, and this research can certainly help organizations design their training programs. However, the ability to understand learning styles is a skill that is just as important for working effectively with others on a day-to-day basis as it is for training.

Employee Onboarding

Turnover statistics for new employees in the first 12-18 months often run as high as 50 percent! One reason for this is that new employees feel frustrated about learning so many new things at once. Unfortunately, there is a lot of focus on “what” to teach a new employee and not enough emphasis on “how” to teach it. There are many routes to getting new employees up to speed and they all vary by the individual. Some people learn best by doing, while others prefer to study written manuals. Sequential learners need to attain job responsibilities in a logical and orderly fashion. Still, others require an understanding of the “why” behind things in order to truly understand their role and accept responsibility. Therefore, it is to the advantage of organizational leaders to customize learning approaches to each individual.

Team Effectiveness

When building teams, there is often a large focus on personality styles and skills, with little focus on how various learning styles and approaches may impact the way a team operates. For example, think about the dimension of Active Learners vs. Reflective Learners. The former will usually take on a task quickly and learn by “doing” while a reflective learner may need to study and spend some time processing the information before jumping into something new. Some leaders might get the impression that a reflective team member is slow or resistant to take on new tasks, when it really may just be that that person needs to absorb the information and opportunity before committing.

Managing Others 

Understanding how your mentees best learn is a great tool for building effective working relationships and productive employees. Think about your groups. Do you have a mix of visual and verbal learners? If so, you need to vary the way you communicate. How are you presenting information to your team? Mixing in charts, diagrams, videos or other visual materials may help employees absorb and retain what you’re sharing.

Also remember that your preferred communication style may not be best suited for those who work for you. It is worth taking time to understand your own learning style as well as the styles of those you work with, then consider whether adjustments need to be made.

Educating yourself about different learning styles can be enlightening and enjoyable. It can even be done in the form of a team-building exercise within your groups. Some of my favorite research and work in this area comes from Richard Felder and Barbara Soloman of North Carolina State University. They have developed an online tool that will help you and your employees discover your different learning styles. You can click here to get started.

If you’re curious about discovering learning styles and abilities of your teams, shoot us a message here! Happy learning!


Finding Your Voice

By: Pamela Walters, November 28, 2017

Ever been frustrated trying to convince, reason or explain to a decision maker? You understand the problem and have clear sight on the solution, but the obvious doesn’t pique the attention or action of your intended audience.  We’ve all been there.  So how do you get a fair hearing?

The answer is in finding your voice with your intended audience.  It doesn’t occur spontaneously “in the moment”; instead it takes planning and intent.  Start with being clear and succinct in what you are asking or stating.  It is crucial to build the story in the currency that matters to them such as a simply stated premise, evidence that demonstrates the value of the idea and address results. For example, “If we remain status quo, we will continue to experience X.  By doing Y we can eliminate duplication and improve the customer experience.”

Good preparation also involves examining self-doubt about the viability of the solution.  Have you considered the downside or factors that could derail its success?  Be prepared to respond to these types of questions.  Share the idea with other coworkers in advance to get feedback and a well-rounded view of how reasonable it sounds to others.

Below are four qualities that will strengthen your voice of influence:

Confidence – the poise and assurance with which you conduct the discussion, evidence of grace under pressure. Practice delivery in front of a mentor or record the conversation so that your body language matches the message you plan to convey.

Conviction – plating up new ideas involves risk.  Is it evident that you believe in your “gut” that this is the way to go and are able to articulate why?  Authenticity convinces others you are bullish about the solution and its resulting outcomes. The expressed conviction should be related to significant outcomes and should communicate openness in an alternative path to get there.

Curiosity – during the conversation, facilitate a discussion – not a presentation – where an answer is required after you finish.  The stakeholder may need time to think it over and their initial impression may not be where they eventually land.  The process may take time, several conversations and involve nuanced changes from your original idea.  Curiosity will remove defensiveness and increase your ability to influence.

Listening – tune into their optic, respond to their questions or statements to assure the stakeholder that you hear their view and respect their concerns.  Your vested interest in the idea should clearly be about helping the organization or senior management meet goals and strategic objectives.

Over the past 18 years, I have spoken with hundreds of leaders and managers who are frustrated with not being heard.  Typically we are examining competency strengths and weaknesses that give perspective to their struggle.  The coaching gave them hope and clear sight on improvements within their control. It is possible to raise your influence level with key stakeholders by understanding how you express ideas, learn to speak in their currency and be disciplined about building this skillset.

Take the long-view, every conversation can be an “ask” or advancement of solid ideas.  Are you willing to own the risk of expressing ideas that stand to make a difference in your workplace?

“DisruptHR” with Candor

By: Julie Johnson, November 8, 2017

I attended an event recently called DisruptHR.  Disrupt is an information exchange designed to energize, inform and empower people in the HR field, but really it attracts all fields, all industries and all people.  The format is 12 speakers (anyone) who want to share on a topic around people talent for five minutes with an automatically rotating PowerPoint slideshow for 15 seconds each.  It’s exhilarating to sit in the audience, watch, listen and learn what these brave speakers think is important enough to share with a roomful of 500 attendees during happy hour.  Social media was highly encouraged and rewarded; you can follow some of the conversation on Twitter by searching “#disrupthrcincy”.

This completely volunteer-run organization started in Cincinnati, OH, but is now in over 100 cities and 25 countries around the world.  #Wow!  If you’re still wrapping your head around this concept, think about a Ted Talk, but more concise.  Not everyone has a knack for this and some speakers might not be your preferred topic, style or vernacular.  However, each person in that room had to walk away learning something and connecting with new people.

My favorite was titled “Scaling a Culture of Candor” by Max Yoder, Co-Founder and CEO of Lessonly.  Lessonly started with 17 employees and has grown to 80 over just a few years.  Max was concerned that Lessonly’s culture of candor wouldn’t or couldn’t last as they necessarily hired more talent to support the growing organization.  Candor is about being open and honest.  For many of us, this is no easy task.  It requires self-awareness, self-confidence, communication skills, comfort with conflict and leaving your ego at the door.  Max shared his quick recipe for candor which is equal to vulnerability and gratitude.  I’ve learned about vulnerability recently from researcher Brene Brown who has a series of Ted Talks on the subject.  This works best in organizations when leaders share first (lead by example) and then the team feels comfortable to follow.  The best relationships come, whether work or personal, after difficult conversations.

I think it’s easy to start this journey and self-assess your workplace.  If everyone is working by themselves in their offices and only say nice things to each other, then you have a long, but achievable, road ahead.