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Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement

New Study Reveals an Increase in Global Mobility


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By Melissa J. Anderson

According to new research by Mercer, the majority of companies worldwide expect to increase both long and short term international assignments this year.

Almost three quarters (70 percent) predicted an uptick in short term assignments, and over half (55 percent) said they will ramp up long term international assignments moving forward in 2013. This is in line with trends from the past few years which have revealed an increase in both long and short term international assignments in both 2010 and 2011.

Anne Rossier-Renaud, Principal in Mercer’s global mobility business, shared some insight into why global mobility is increasing. “International assignments have become diverse in order to meet evolving business and global workforce needs. Relatively low pay increases in some regions and pressure on companies to attract and retain talent, have spurred many to embrace a wider range of global mobility strategies to incentivise high performers.”

As the business space becomes increasingly global, the types of assignments that are available evolve in duration, destination, and other factors, which enable more people to take advantage of mobility opportunities.

Employee Engagement

Communication is Critical in Building Creative Teams


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By Melissa J. Anderson

A new study [PDF] out of INSEAD purports to show how managers of innovation teams can better position their employees for success. While much of the research into creative teams suggests that individually familiarity is important for productivity, according to the researchers, that’s only part of the equation.

The authors of the paper, Manuel Sosa, Associate Professor of Technology and Operations Management at INSEAD, and Franck Marle, Associate Professor of Project Management, Laboratoire Génie Industriel, Ecole Centrale Paris write that managers should look at the quality of creative past interactions between team members. Simply knowing one another is not enough to produce good creative work – team members should have a track record of positive past creative interactions as well.

They write, “Creativity is strongly influenced by the way individuals are organized. One of the most difficult and important challenges when managing innovation is to identify the individuals within an organization who must work closely with each other to maximize the generation of creative ideas.”

By ensuring that individuals on a creative team are well suited to work with one another, managers can better hope to achieve a more productive creative team.

Employee Engagement

Sharing Soft Information in a Decentralized Organization


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By Melissa J. Anderson

As companies get flatter and turnover increases around the world as aging workers retire, many employers are struggling to find a way to ensure information is successfully captured and communicated throughout their workforces. Soft information, which is discretionary and difficult to measure, is also difficult to pass on.

One way to do this is through information sharing technology, where employees enter thoughts and experiences with clients or customers into a database for later use. A new study of a large credit union in the US showed that this method is far more effective than expected, and it has the results to back it up.

“Contrary to prevailing views on the limited portability of soft information, our results provide evidence that the ‘stock’ of soft information accumulated in this system has persistent effects on the lending decisions of employees,” write the authors of the study Dennis Campbell, Harvard Business School and Maria Loumioti, University of Southern California.

According to Campbell and Loumioti, soft information entered in the system enables employees to “increase access to credit for borrowers, provide more favorable pricing terms, and reduce the ex post risk of their lending decisions.”

What’s more, that information was transferred between employees. They write, “These effects remain even when this information was acquired by employees other than the decision-maker, and they are not diminished by the physical separation of employees working in different business units.”

Employee Engagement

How Risky Corporate Strategy Affects Human Capital


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By Melissa J. Anderson

A new study shows that when firms are in distress, they are less likely to attract applicants. The authors, Jennifer Brown, Northwestern University and NBER, and David A. Matsa, Northwestern University, believe their research has implications on the ways companies pursue new opportunities, invest, and think about risk.

“A company’s financial condition has far-reaching effects on the firm, including on its
ability to attract and retain human capital. Corporate financial insecurity can lead current
employees to search for more stable positions and new recruits to focus their searches elsewhere,” they write. “Unless distressed firms can offer a sufficient compensating wage premium, they may have difficulty recruiting new talent, particularly for positions that require firm-specific investments.”

But, because distressed companies don’t necessarily have the ability to pay a premium for top talent, they can get caught in a vicious cycle, wherein poor strategy forces a them to hire insufficient or inexperienced talent, which leads to yet more poor performance.

This is why companies need to include the potential impact on human capital in risk assessments regarding new projects or investments.

Employee Engagement

Why Our Concept of Teams Needs to Change


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By Melissa J. Anderson

When we think about teams, we usually imagine a group of people who come together to work on a project or solve a problem. But according to new INSEAD research [PDF], the reality today is different.

While teams in the past were static, mostly homogeneous groups of people with defined roles working toward a set solution, INSEAD’s Mark Mortensen writes that today teams are much more fluid. In his paper, “The Team Unbound: The Theoretical, Methodological, and Managerial Implications of Fluid and Multiplex Boundaries in Teams,” he explains:

In reality, however, team boundaries are often fluid – with members changing in response to shifts in their environment – as well as multiplex – with multiple salient but nonaligned sets of members spread across different contexts. While addressing the practical needs of organizations in today’s’ post-bureaucratic global economy, boundary fluidity and multiplexity do not match the approach to boundedness found in much scholarly and lay-thinking about teams.

When organizational development practitioners apply the old definition of teams to the new reality, they may inadvertently ignore new challenges that have come to light in the workplace over the past few decades. Mortensen suggests that by framing teams as task-oriented rather than people-oriented, companies can better organize and motivate staff to achieve their full potential.

Employee Engagement

Is Social Intrapreneurship the Cure for Corporate Burnout?


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By Melissa J. Anderson

A new working paper out of INSEAD tracks the growing trend of Corporate Social Entrepreneurship. CSE is different than traditional corporate social responsibility, which seeks to distribute firm resources in order to comply with legal and community ethical standards. With CSE, firms establish business units dedicated to solving a particular societal issue, utilizing corporate resources and skills in order without the explicit goal of gaining that expenditure back. The people who directly benefit from CSE initiatives are not necessarily related to the firm.

The authors of the paper, Christiane S. Bode and Filipe M. Santos explain, CSE initiatives are, “are the work of social intrapreneurs who are responding to perceived shortcomings in society and utilize the resources of the firm to provide market based solutions to address them.”

The motivation of social intrapreneurs lies outside the firm, rather than folded inside it. But, the research shows, while Corporate Social Entrepreneurship seeks to create value for external stakeholders, the work may ultimately benefit firms as well, in the form of increased employee engagement – retaining disaffected high performers, strengthening bonds between employees, and providing lower-pressure real world opportunities for skills development.

Employee Engagement

How Should Companies Focus on Workforce Education?


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By Melissa J. Anderson

A new Mercer study on talent management has revealed that companies are scrambling to find workers with the right skills. The study, entitled Talent Rising: High Impact Accelerators to Global Growth polled HR and talent management executives of 1,268 organizations in a variety of different industries globally.

It found that firms that are the most actively involved in planning for the future tend to be the most confident that their workforce will meet their needs moving forward. Similarly, the study found that companies that are most positive about the future are also more likely to participate in learning and development in some way at the educational level – with some going far beyond internships or career fairs at universities to partner with school faculties in a deeper, more meaningful context.

Pat Milligan, Region President at Mercer and member of The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Education and Skills said, “This lack of qualified talent is a real concern for employers and one that requires a multi-stakeholder approach to solving. We have found companies that are most optimistic about the future are actively involved in shaping it.”

How deep should companies go in shaping the workforce of tomorrow?

Employee Engagement

Beyond the Suggestion Box: How to Encourage Frontline Workers to Speak Up


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By Melissa J. Anderson

A new working paper [PDF] out of Harvard Business School purports to show how managers can encourage front line employees to speak up about problems or potential solutions on the job. According to Anita L. Tucker, Associate Professor and Marvin Bower Fellow at Harvard Business School, past research has shown that workers tend to be reticent about suggesting improvements on the job – they don’t want to be perceived as someone who holds up the process to their peers, and they don’t want to be seen as a complainer to management.

This is a common issue at many companies and organizations where employees make a habit of just letting things go, without standing up for quality or their personal values, writes Dan Pallotta in the Harvard Business Review.

“People at all levels, especially management, witness the slow undoing of good customer service, product quality, or safety standards, and they don’t say a thing about it. Even if it violates their own value system and the mission of the company. But if everyone at a crummy airline, for example, had the same zero-tolerance for bad customer service as a lesbian has for lying about the fact that she’s married to a woman, it wouldn’t be a crummy airline for long. To stand up for your truth is to be a leader.”

Pallota indicates that true leadership means being willing to take a stand – or gum up the works in the face of a system that is sub-par. Tucker’s research indicates how companies can institutionalize this kind of behavior, in the hopes that it may become part of their cultural DNA. After all companies can benefit significantly if individuals are willing to speak up when there are problems, decreasing inefficiency and avoiding costly product recalls, reputation damage, or even worse.

Employee Engagement

Succession Planning in Emerging Markets


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By Melissa J. Anderson

A new study [PDF] to be published this month in the Strategic Management Journal shows that in emerging markets, hiring an outsider to lead a company can produce a higher return on assets. According to the researchers, Nien Chung, Singapore Business School, Department of Management & Organization, and Xiaowei Rose Luo, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise at INSEAD, this has to do with the social context in which a firm is situated.

The focus on emerging markets is also key to the research. Companies in regions undergoing rapid change, and dealing with new investment and competition by companies in mature markets may benefit from an outsider perspective, they suggest. Family run businesses may also benefit from an outside successor – but to a lesser extent. They explain, “However, this outsider premium is reduced in firms embedded in family and business group relationships, where family and inside successors can better access network resources.”

On the other hand, they continue, “But the outsider premium is amplified in firms embedded in a mature market based logic, such as high tech or foreign invested firms, because the perceived legitimacy of outsiders facilitates resource acquisition.”

Chung and Luo believe the research shows how succession planning should take into account the social reality in which a company exists.

Employee Engagement

Enhancing Productivity in Sales Staff


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By Melissa J. Anderson

Sales is a critical function of any company in some shape or form – but at a time when corporate budgets are being slashed around the world, motivating sales teams can become a challenge. First of all, many companies may be scaling back bonus options, while at the same time, clients may be less inclined to spend money.

Those two factors also mean that companies also may need to work harder to build the perfect compensation mix – one both efficient and rewarding – to ensure sales teams are motivated to be highly productive, especially in the uncertain economic climate.

A working paper by Doug J. Chung, Harvard Business School; Thomas Steenburgh. Darden Graduate School of Business; and K. Sudhir, Yale School of Management purports to determine the right mix of bonuses, commissions, and quotas to keep sales teams motivated. The paper, “Do Bonuses Enhance Sales Productivity? A Dynamic Structural Analysis of Bonus-Based Compensation Plans,” [PDF] finds that all of these motivators can work together in the compensation tool box. They summarize:

“We find evidence that: (1) bonuses enhance productivity across all segments; (2) overachievement commissions help sustain the high productivity of the best performers even after attaining quotas; and (3) quarterly bonuses help improve performance of the weak performers by serving as pacers to keep the sales force on track to achieve their annual sales quotas.”

By mixing compensation options, companies can better motivate a broad range of sales staff to achieve high performance goals in the long term.