Business, Success

Does this scenario sound familiar? This is June 2020. You switch your TV on or log on to your favourite social media platform and all you see are incessant messages about racism and discrimination. Protest coverage. Perhaps, you are puzzled, you question what you are seeing and/or you wonder: Why are our differences still an issue in 2020? Why is diversity still not embraced by everyone?


After all, we all know at least one colleague at work who does not look like us. Someone who does not have the same skin colour or belong to the same ethnicity group. We’ve probably worked closely with them for months or years. Perhaps we’ve even become best friends with them. 


So, how do you begin to discuss what is happening in the world today without altering or harming that relationship? Might it be possible to address these sensitive issues of race and discrimination in a way that deepens that relationship into one of greater understanding, vulnerability and a spirit of togetherness? I believe that is possible.

Strengthening culture through dialogue, empathy, and action

But what if it’s not just a diverse peer, but a diverse team? And you are the manager of that team? 

How do you demonstrate to a group of people who may not look like you that you care about diversity and inclusion?


Should you just avoid the conversation altogether?

The simple answer is no, you should not. You must have the dialogue in the right spirit of empathy and unity. Discrimination is not an isolated problem with geographic boundaries. As a people manager, it requires an open mind, open communication, and willingness to understand the current state of your team/organization, so that you can identify if something is amiss or not, and act accordingly.  


Our planet is home to so much diversity: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious, generational, and beyond. Today, it’s not only about accepting diversity but embracing, supporting and nurturing it so your organization can surge ahead in a spirit of inclusion. 


First and foremost: because WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS, equal in our rights and opportunities.


Secondly, diversity and inclusion efforts are worthwhile. Some potential benefits for inclusive organizations are top talent attraction, higher employee engagement, better decision making and higher returns.

A diverse culture means better business returns 

Recent statistics show a correlation between racial and/or ethnic diversity and strong earnings/performance for North American companies:


  • A 2017 report from the Centre for International Governance Innovation cited the results of a study conducted by Statistics Canada. In Canada, industries show an average 2.4% increase in revenue and 0.5 % increase in workplace productivity with a 1% increase in ethnocultural diversity.   


  • According to McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report, US senior executive teams realize a 0.8% increase in earnings with every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity. 

Studies have also exposed some other compelling statistics:

  • According to McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report, UK senior executive teams show a 3.5 % increase in earnings before interest and taxes with every 10 % increase in gender diversity.


  • The Center for Talent Innovation says that inclusive publicly traded organizations are 45% more likely to grow their current market share in the last 12 months and 70% are more likely to obtain new markets.

Diversity is clearly not just the right thing to support and promote, it’s good for business.

As a manager, what can you do to help diverse teams thrive and, in the process, move your organization forward?

After all, according to Gallup: “Inclusion policies don't change anything unless the culture changes too.”

Here are few tips to become an “ambassador of inclusiveness” and effectively manage your diverse team today.
1. Lead by example and initiate dialogues about diversity and inclusion

Use recent events in the U.S. as an opportunity to reassure your staff that you value their diversity and do not tolerate discrimination. If you haven’t done so yet, I recommend initiating an open dialogue right away (e.g. as either a group or one-to-one, depending on your culture).

2. Identify trends to guide your inclusion practices through an employee survey

Conduct an anonymous and confidential survey of your employees to capture diversity and inclusion trends (Ideally through an outside firm). The data you capture should be used to inform your decision-making and form a solid foundation for your inclusion practices.


3. Track, monitor and update key HR data and practices

a) Inclusive hiring practices


With a return to work in the “next normal”, it is now the perfect time to role out more inclusive hiring practices. This may include:


  • A diverse recruiting team in other to reduce the risk of recruiting biases


  • A review of your recruiting process to ensure as much as possible an objective and inclusive approach. For instance:  Do you typically prioritize internal pipeline candidates before opening a role externally? Do you use an efficient Applicant Tracking System (ATS) for your hiring process? What typical questions are asked to candidates during the recruiting process? Are they all free of bias? 

b) Fair and objective pay   

Identify your employees by diversity group and for each role, review pay per diversity group to verify fairness and equality. Is there any diversity group that is getting paid more or less?


Specifically monitor:

  • Pay versus employee performance versus employee seniority in the job versus diversity group. 

  • Pay versus employee performance versus resignation versus diversity group.

Now is the time to take steps to eliminate any wage discrimination based on diversity.

c) Promotions

Identify your main diversity groups and confirm the number of promotions per diversity type for the last 1-2 years. This analysis allows you to verify if employees are getting promoted regardless of their diversity group.

Also, be sure to monitor: 

  • Promotions versus employee performance versus diversity group

  • Promotions versus employee job tenure versus diversity group

By doing so, you’ll be able to know if promotions are fair, if inclusion is present and whether top performers are getting promoted, regardless of their diversity.

This will also allow you to reverse any discrimination or discriminative promotion practices present in your organization.

d) Uncover Discrimination through Exit Interviews

Use exit interviews to discover any work culture issues or discriminative practices within your organization.  When an employee voluntarily resigns from your organization, closely examine their reasons for departure (e.g. lack of promotion, low pay, discrimination, harassment.) and whether they are top performers from a specific diversity group.


  • Start by reviewing the last 6-12 months exit interviews to find out if some trends related to diversity and inclusion have been shared by recent departing employees.

  • After this initial analysis, begin to regularly use the information in exits interviews for better decision-making.


4. Foster inclusion through team building activities 

In these unprecedented times, some team-building icebreaker activities will serve to bring your team together and create a good team-spirit. This website provides you various options for in-person and remote activities.  I personally recommend “the one question” team building activity which is quite powerful in the current context and can be run virtually. A strong question you may consider asking your staff is this: “If you could ask just one question to discover a person’s suitability for being an inclusive peer at work, what would it be?

Racism and any type of discrimination remain challenges that every organization around the world is grappling with today. It cannot be ignored.  Now is the time to take action and build a united, inclusive culture. Not only will this win you the hearts of your employees, it will also help you attract diverse top talents hungry for equality and fair opportunity. What’s more, your organization will profit from higher financial returns. Embracing diversity in your work culture is a win-win-win scenario, whichever way you look at it.


Business, Success

I recently wrote a post on LinkedIn about micromanagement during COVID-19 and received an overwhelming response. In just a couple of days, I had over 65,000 views.


My post addressed the question from an employee concerning the shift of management style of his boss since the lockdown, from micromanaging to ‘ultra-micromanaging’. It immediately touched a chord with many. In the words of one post reader: “omg yes! so many extra meetings scheduled, extra targets being added, so many more Excel spread sheets…completely takes time away from being able to do our jobs. I feel like working from home went to never leaving work.”


But what concerned me even more was her additional comment that revealed the negative mental health impact of this ‘intense management-style’ trend:


“I was furloughed a few weeks ago and while I felt an initial blow to the chest, I was a little relieved. Lol it was getting pretty intense and my anxiety levels were at an all-time high. I LOVE my company and boss. I cannot wait to get back to our normal though!”


Although this employee says she ‘loves her manager and the organization, the current pressure she is facing is stressing her out and causing chest pains and anxiety. This is serious. Should it continue, the impact on her mental and emotional health could be disastrous. What’s more, she is apparently not an isolated case. This social media share regarding a sudden shift happening in management style since the lockdown and rising anxiety levels was so relatable that as of today over 295 people liked it and over 25 people replied directly to her share. It’s natural to assume that some (or most) of them are also experiencing similar struggles. In sympathizing with her situation, they either feel similar pressures from managers, or feel she is being managed in an unacceptable way– or likely both.


Ask yourself if you are putting too much pressure on your employees


If you are a people manager, this should give you pause for thought. Ask yourself: “is it possible that my employees are feeling similar pressures from me? Could they be experiencing undue stress and other mental health issues due to my new lockdown management style?”


Despite your best efforts to get things done and drive productivity you may have altered things for the worse. Are you noticing a drop in your employees’ engagement, lagging motivation and poor participation during your virtual meetings? Are you seeing a significant drop in performance and productivity from even your star players since the lockdown began?


If you answer “yes” to at least two of these questions, it’s likely that the ‘journey of your staff in the organization’ — the ‘employee experience’– is currently jeopardized. Some might be in a state of stress or burnout. Others might be experiencing mental illness (e.g. anxiety disorders, depression).


Mental health issues: a common risk in the workplace


Mental health must not be ignored by either employee or employer. It requires fast and direct action. Left unchecked, mental health issues could have detrimental lasting effects on the individual and impede their ability to work productively. Factually, mental health issues are not a rare thing amongst employees. A recent study from Gallup , says 76% of workers suffer burnout at least sometimes. As of October, 4 2019 WHO indicates that approximately 450 million people are affected by mental health disorders, “placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide”.


Certainly, mental health issues can have devastating effects on the personal lives of employees. But it can also cause wreak havoc for the future of your organization.

Mental health issues in the workplace can cause:

  • A significant rise in employee absenteeism levels

  • A drop in staff creativity levels

  • A decrease in staff performance levels

  • Higher payroll costs

  • Increased turnover

  • Lost productivity

Unchecked, not only could mental health issues in the workplace impact your bottom line, it can also have a significant impact on the country economy as a whole.

Calculating the high cost of mental health issues

In 2018, Mercer advised that Canadian companies lose approximately $16.6 billion in productivity per year due to employee sick days linked to mental health issues. A 2015 US research revealed that workplace-stress costs an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the US – eating up as much as 8% of national spending on health care. In a 2019 WHO information sheet, depression and anxiety disorders were calculated to cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.


So, how can you safeguard your employees’ mental health right now?

How can you ensure that management pressures don’t contribute to a rise in stress, anxiety, burnout or breakdown, today and after lockdown ends?

Smart tactics to help lower and prevent mental health issues during lockdown

Here are some smart tactics to help lower and prevent mental health issues during lockdown:


1. Recognize how your management style can affect your employees’ mental health


The first step is understanding how your ‘management style’ can contribute to a negative work environment because staff mental health issues are tied to how employees are managed, and how they experience work daily.


But where do you begin in evaluating your own management style? Is it really that bad?


WHO and Gallup have identified factors that correlate with mental health issues in the workplace. Some of them are:


  • Unclear communication from managers

  • Poor management practices

  • Inflexible working hours

  • Lack of management support

  • Unmanageable workload

  • Unfair treatment at work

  • Unclear tasks or organizational objectives

  • Unreasonable time pressure

  • Limited participation in decision-making



2. Revise your management style to ensure a better employee experience

In order to safeguard and optimize your employees’ mental health, you’ll need to adopt a management style that focuses on creating and maintaining a good ‘employee experience’.


Here are few tips:


Tip 1. Listen intently to your staff and encourage them to talk about themselves.

Find out how your employees are coping during the lockdown and how they wish to be supported. Ask them, what preoccupies or worries them regarding work. What do they need from you to make their job easier – and how can you support them to optimize work-life balance?


Sincerity and openness are key. It may help to share some of your own worries and apologize if your stress has negatively affected their work experience. Be genuinely interested in them –and an attentive listener. These important conversations can happen in different ways:


  • Virtual one-on-one conversations

  • Group meeting to gather employee feedback conversations


The group meeting is especially valuable in generating ideas, guiding connectiveness and fostering mutual support among team members. Studies show that people with strong social support ( strong relationships) have a reduced risk of mental health issues.

  • Employee survey

Many employees may be afraid to have a straight face-to-face talk with you. An anonymous, confidential survey will help you gather candid feedback, capture trends and gather information you can use for better decision-making.

Tip 2. Champion a return to regular work routines and a manageable workload


Recognize that heavy workloads and work routines that include too many meetings can become counterproductive for your staff. A Microsoft study shows that it takes an average of 15 minutes to return to an important project after a phone or email interruption. Professor David E. Meyer confirmed that switching to a new task while still in the middle of another increases the time needed to complete the task by 25 to 50 percent or more, compared to what would be involved if the person was only focusing on that task alone.



Therefore, an excellent first step is to identify unnecessary activities and meetings and remove them from the calendar. Work with your staff to streamline procedures, simplify work processes and, when possible, eliminate time-intensive tasks. Most importantly, think twice before adding new KPIs at a time when your employees are struggling to work from home with kids doing schoolwork, making noise, needing hugs. Even though it is not business as usual, you need to manage them in a similar manner as you did in the office. Even better, with more latitude, flexibility and humanity.

Tip 3. Recognize and reward your staff

Ask yourself, when was the last time that you took the time to recognize your employees. If it was prior to the outbreak, it’s long overdue. After all, they have been working from home in challenging conditions and have still managed to deliver.

Track the impact individual employees have made in their respective roles and evaluate their behaviours, actions and results. Who has met or exceeded expectations? Who has demonstrated leadership in helping others with work or morale issues since the lockdown?

Smart leaders will integrate recognition programs tailored to the needs of employees right now. Go beyond the traditional “thank you from you the manager”, to offer employee rewards suitable for these challenging times, such as flexible hours or a full or partial day off with pay.

Flexible hours and time off: the best rewards for employees now

Under the current circumstances, working from home is not a reward, it is the ‘new normal’. Flexible hours, however, have become something to be coveted, more than ever. After all, many of us are now balancing work with caring for dependents who are now home 24/7. Flexible hours reduce the risk of stress or burnout associated with juggling work and family demands. Similarly offering a full or partial day off with pay can help your employees recalibrate and recharge. Both can serve as a powerful way to recognize and reward employees for a job well done.

Finally, every day ask yourself this: Is my management style today motivated by my fear of losing my own job or company – or my desire to save the company, save as many jobs as possible and safeguard the well-being of everyone on my team? If you answered the latter, it’s a sure sign you are an effective people leader who cares about mental health. None of us can function properly without it. So, what are you going to do to support your team today?


Business, Success

Does this scenario sound familiar? You are reaching out to your employees via Zoom or Hangouts or GoToMeeting or any other online meeting platform in their home offices, translation: their spare rooms, kid’s room, or living- room at home. You are trying to follow up on an important project, but the onlinemeeting is not going too well. One employee has a child that keeps interrupting to get hugs and ask for help playing Lego Star Wars on his tablet. Another must be muted because her poodle is barking incessantly. One is absent because he urgently needs to care for his sick mother living at a facility a few miles away. And three employees are having trouble getting access and can’t log into the meeting at all. On top of that, maybe there are issues in your own home office? Your children are needing you, asking for a hug, needing help with a school project.


How can you possibly lead a regular meeting during times like these? How can you maintain normalcy at all in your business operations right now?


The simple answer is you can’t. Don’t even try. This is not business as usual, and requires a fresh approach and plenty of compassion, flexibility and open communication with your people.



Daily life – at home and at work (one and the same now)— has radically changed for everyone. An onslaught of challenges is upon us: social distancing, quarantine, homeschooling and online learning for kids, activity suspension and sudden job loss for many, along with long grueling hours in scary conditions for essential service employees.



Governments and employers have a common statement: “Be safe”; many coaches, influencers and leaders suggest love, hope, calm and other positive emotions; and spiritual gurus recommend practicing meditation, prayer and kindness. So, what is the mantra for your leadership teams in terms of managing employees?



In addition, working conditions have changed. Running or attending online and videos meetings is now the new norm. Protective shields masks, gloves and sanitary wipes and other personal protective equipment are the new mandatory business supplies needed for your front-line workers.


In other words, very quickly, we have seen the almost total ‘collapse’ of our ‘normal’ ways of living and working. Human experience is impacted and for the labour force, we can say employee experience is of course impacted. But what is employee experience?



Gallup defines the employee experience (EX) as the journey an employee takes with the organization.


According to Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience Advantage, three environments influence employee experience: (1) The physical environment– which comprises 30% of EX and entails everything that characterizes the work space, meaning “anything that can be seen, heard, touched, and tasted like desks, chairs, art, and meals.”; (2)The technological environment – which comprises 30% of EX and pertains to the technology tools an employee needs to perform in their job and; (3) The cultural environment–which is the  ‘vibe of the organization’ and comprises 40% of EX and encompasses how employees feel about the actions that are taken and approaches that are adopted inside the organization (e.g. leadership style, total rewards programs.).


So how can you facilitate a great employee experience right now? Help your employees overcome fear and stress and help them maintain a personal sense of wellbeing, while at the same time keep the wheels of productivity in motion for your organization?  


It starts with collaboration, dialogue and creating a safe space. This starts with listening and encouraging your people to share their thoughts and feelings about what they are experiencing. Find out what they really need and value from you, their employer. More flexible schedules? Support with Internet connectivity? Emotional health resources? Then you can respond meaningfully by implementing or adopting programs/approaches that resonate for everyone.


Here are few tips.

Tip #1. Put yourselves in your staff shoes by being an inclusive leader recognizing and accepting any type of diversity. We are all in this together.

Let’s not forget that working together in an office allows us to see some types of diversity (e.g. race, religion, culture, age, sex/gender, sexual orientation, disability). Working from home reveals different types of diversity, notably: the place of residence and the family status. How can you ensure a ‘climate of inclusiveness’ in that context?

Compassion and flexibility for caregivers

Some of your employees who work from home might be challenged with caring for children or older parents, for instance. Ask them to continue to handle work professionally but be willing to understand and forgive if unexpectedly at some point during your phone or video meeting you can hear or see a kid popping up in the background for instance. Also, empower your entire team to behave the same.



Respect for their places of residence

Keep in mind that some members of your staff might live in a home where it is challenging for them to create a professional office space. I suggest two options:


Option 1: Offer option of phone meetings


Make everyone at ease and avoid discomfort by simply giving employees the option to join meetings by phone if they don’t want to join by video.


Option 2: Offer home office set-up assistance


If you absolutely want all your staff to be on video, reach out to everyone individually and ask them if they feel comfortable to be on a video call, or not. If not, and the home office space is the issue, offer assistance to the employee to set up, create a workable office space. Do they need a subsidy for Internet? Help with transforming their home environment? Maybe your company has a budget for these types of scenarios or maybe a staging specialist could provide assistance based on their budget, or a subsidy from you? Or maybe you can help them creating a virtual background with your video conferencing software.



Tip #2. Communicate frequently and connect with your people

The manager’s communication has much to do with the employee experience. So, communicate with your staff with the intention of knowing their reality and offering support. For instance, find out about their day to day life working from home, or working in the field as a front-line worker or health care professional. What bothers them about the current situation? Is there any aspect of their working condition that they think you can improve and how? What motivates them to wake up every day and work and what could stop them?



The goal is to have a genuine discussion while supporting them. You might not see yourself as a coach, but you could transform yourself into a great listener, into someone who connects with others. First listen carefully to what they share. If what they share relates to you or an experience you had, then, be generous and vulnerable and share your personal story. Researchers like Sherry Hamby, Ph.D. have confirmed that ‘sharing your story can help others’ and it does not matter if you are a TED show speaker or not.



Tip #3. Optimize the physical and technological environments

Find out if employees have adjusted to their new working conditions and see if the organization can do something about it. For workers in the field, do they feel, the organization has maximized their safety while serving clients? Do they need additional protection?


If employees work from home, are they acceptably or fully equipped to do their job? What have they said is missing or wish they had at home?


Have you introduced a new technology platform recently? Is all your staff comfortable using it? Is there anyone who need some training?



Tip #4. Keep structure: uphold some regular practices and employee rights to breaks and overtime


Regardless of whether they are working from home or not, their employment contract still applies. Continue to keep the relationship between your staff and the organization strong, stable and in compliance with the law.



Investing your energy in the employee experience (EX) will not only help you support your workforce during the current crisis, it will also help you strengthen your business and have a direct impact on Customer Experience or CX. Particularly, it will demonstrate your level of connectedness with your people and your commitment to be ONE with your staff by cooperating, connecting and empowering them during these interesting times. Achieving this will not only make you proud and a hero for your workers, you’ll also distinguish yourself as a leader in your industry. After all, organizations that focus on EX are:

  • 11.5 times as often in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work
  • 28 times more often listed among Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies
  • Earning more than 4 times the average profit and more than 2 times the average revenue as other businesses. (Morgan, J. (2017). The Employee Experience Advantage).

So, have you checked in personally with your employees today?


Business, Success

The majority of the workforce is not engaged. It’s a well-known, widespread problem around the world.That means most of your employees are not emotionally involved or committed to your company today.

You’ve felt the frustration, heard the complaints and seen the steady stream of statistics: Gallup says a staggering 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. The Canada Human Resources Centre measures disengagement at 60% of Canadian employees, reporting that unhappy workers are costing North American businesses more than $350 billion annually in lost productivity.

In other words, we are facing a workforce engagement crisis. Failure to address this predicament now in an effective way could seriously jeopardize a company’s future.

So, what are most companies doing to stave off the devastating effects of disengagement in the workforce? For the most part, we have seen two trends: 1) The emergence of total rewards programs. These are programs designed to incent and motivate employees through compensation, benefits, work-life, performance & recognition, development & careers opportunities tied to time, talents and results. 2) The increase of motivational coaches. A cavalcade of experts, mentors and consultants are striding in to save the day with their special employee-focused programs, practices and inspirational keynotes.

But what if there was a third approach? What if, we started a little earlier, at the very beginning of the employment journey?

What if a real answer to optimizing workforce engagement and lasting loyalty lay in a brand-new approach to recruitment? Could a shift in perspective during the process of hiring new employees possibly, dare I say, save companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in productivity every year? Let’s explore…

Rethinking the interview process and how we view experience

One of the biggest challenges a company faces is attracting the right people. Individuals who will meaningfully contribute to long-term business success. People, however, are unpredictable and complex, and that means recruiting can be a high-risk throw of the dice for organizations. Scanning for mirror image experience and exact-match skillsets on a resume doesn’t always work to successfully fill an open position. So why not take an alternate approach and focus on an applicant’s values and abilities instead? According to billionaire investor and philanthropist Ray Dalio, people are “unlikely to change much” so it’s important we become discerning and not necessarily rank experience over attitude and ‘aptitude’.

1. Focus more on values and abilities
Values and abilities are one of the most important identifiers of great candidates. They provide a rare window into future performance, revealing whether a candidate truly needs or wants the job. Are they passionate about your organization? Can they succeed, even when things might change? Do they fit well within your organizational culture? These are the questions you should be asking yourself before deciding on your shortlist.

According to Dalio, values (meaning the “deep-seated beliefs that motivate behaviors and determine people’s compatibilities with each other”) are the most important thing to look at when picking people for long-term relationships, including employment. Abilities (meaning the “ways of thinking and behaving”) come next — and skills are the least important of all. Yet many of us make the mistake of overlooking values and somehow abilities during the job interview phase.

How Thomas Edison saw spark in an otherwise unqualified job candidate

You may never have heard of Edwin Barnes. But at the turn of the past century he was famous for becoming Thomas Edison’s right hand man – the force behind the launch of the Ediphone. Barnes possessed no skills, experience or special inroads back in 1905 when he boldly approached one of the greatest inventors on the planet, making a brazen pitch to become his associate. He had no sales experience, no credibility and nothing on paper to substantiate his claims that he could take Edison’s business to the next level. But Thomas Edison looked beyond his lack of credentials, instantly impressed by his great ambition and internal drive. He recognized those special values and abilities – and assigned them more weight than what was on his “resume” at the time.

Edison took a chance on Barnes, initially hiring him as a floor sweeper. In less than two years later, Barnes had risen to become Edison’s principal sales associate. He started commercializing the Ediphone, a product that other people from the Edison organization doubted. More than a century later, we still talk about their partnership as one of the most powerful business associations of all times.

The Barnes Edison success story serves to illustrate that work experience is not always “the be all and end all”. While lack of work experience might be considered a “reasonable, logical and legitimate reason” for many employers not to proceed with a candidate, enlightened recruiters today are beginning to look beyond this. A lack of relevant work experience is, after all, not always ‘null experience’ (like the case of Edwin Barnes). This is especially the case when interviewing immigrant candidates who may have plenty of “experience”, but simply lack “Canadian experience”.

2. Flexibility around work experience

Oftentimes, hiring managers will demand something like “at least 3-5 years of experience in the field, and in the country.” This can be a big mistake. There is now a wave of newcomers in the talent pool with less than one year of experience here, but perhaps 5 years of experience overseas in the same capacity. These new Canadians are likely to be motivated, successful individuals simply looking to be given a chance. Don’t miss a golden opportunity to find out more about these dedicated individuals. They might be a good fit for your organization.

Many employers are impeded by a restricted view of who the best candidate should be. Sadly, they miss the opportunity to bring on board the next company hero. For those who can break through from their limiting beliefs, a whole new pool of potential talent becomes available.

Maybe these people lack the requisite skills to do the job they applied for at this time? But, with a little training, could they qualify in a few months? Could there be an alternative role in your company to start them in? With a little investment, could they develop requisite skills and serve your organization proudly, passionately and productively for many years to come?

Recruiting a tech superstar who didn’t look good on paper

Recently, I had a client ask me to help them find a tech expert. The requirements for the job were simple: X amount of years of experience in North America plus the typical expertise and technology skillsets
Bill was a great candidate, so I put him forward. He immediately demonstrated confidence and passion about the work by preparing an animated intro about himself. He knew what he wanted to accomplish and had a “burning desire” to succeed. Bill was undeniably ‘skilled’; however, I knew he did not possess the typical North American work experience that the employer was seeking.
After a quick review of Bill’s profile, my client responded: “Bill seems smart, but It might be difficult for him because he doesn’t have enough experience in North America”
Knowing the greater importance of “fit”, I decided to go to bat for Bill. I pointed out how he was not only smart, but also customer-focused, a fast thinker, data-oriented and someone who really knows what the work is about. How he also appears to be very driven and enthusiastic about the opportunity and the company.
In short, I recommended that they give him a chance because his values aligned with their organization. My client ended up trusting my words. They met with Bill and made him an offer immediately.
After one full year in the role, Bill is now considered a super-star employee. Knowledgeable, creative, well-liked and fully aligned with the organization, he has become a totally engaged and productive member of the team.
What’s more, Bill’s values and drive have helped the company to better serve and retain some of their largest clients. This highly engaged employee is undeniably contributing to the success of the organization and is likely to do so for years to come.
While workforce engagement remains a challenge, with a fresh approach to recruiting it is no longer impossible to achieve. Those hiring managers who take a different view and bring new people on board who share values and abilities that align with the company culture– regardless of their skillsets and direct experience — will likely have the best success.


Business, Success

The world is still abuzz with the big 2019 NBA championship win by the Toronto Raptors. Those of us who watched rode a roller coaster of emotions as we cheered for our team (I confess I could barely watch as the tension rose and fell on a moment’s notice). Amidst the excitement, we were fed a steady stream of statistics: 110 points scored per 100 possessions. Fred VanVleet’s 30 points made on 57 attempts. Superstar Kawhi Leonard’s amazing average of 30.5 points per game. One of the most crucial aspects of basketball today, in fact, is analyzing and comparing athletes. Player analysis factors into every aspect of the game – recruiting, player development, strategy and more. Professional sports today in general is data driven. So, what if we applied the same data-centric thinking to the world of HR?

In the sports industry, statistics and data were not always given such strong emphasis. In the past, coaching and scouting talent was all about the “feel” the scout and coach had for the player. Sure, they could assess whether the player scored a lot of goals or played a two-way game, but it is only very recently that scouting and coaching started to put a lot of emphasis on data analytics to complement the “touchy feely” side of assessing players, or what coaches and scouts call their instincts. Today, the world of human resources (HR) is also gradually waking up to the power of data. HR traditionally has been regarded as the soft side of the business. It has never won the respect or focus that finance and other departments receive within a corporation due to a lack of numbers to quantify its impact. With no hard facts and figures at their fingertips, HR leaders have been unable to prove the true value and return on investment (ROI) of their function within the organization. While there are some signs of change, HR is still struggling to effectively use metrics in order to link employees’ productivity to enterprise results. For this reason, corporate leaders continue to label human resources as “just a cost centre”. In reality, HR is a great deal more than a cost centre. To make its case to the executive team and the board of directors, HR must strengthen and systematize its “touchy and feely” approach with data analytics to operate more productively. When used properly, HR metrics can powerfully link workforce productivity to enterprise results. Suddenly, the HR function dramatically transforms from a cost centre to a profit centre.

Successful sports organizations put their people first

In the world of sports (as in the corporate arena) people are the number one asset for any franchise. Efficient professional sports leaders, however, do a far better job of recognizing the importance of great talent within their organization. They are laser-focused on their athletes: who they are, how they play and what they value. Their top priority is attracting retaining and engaging the most talented players available. And they do this very effectively through a) building a powerful culture and b) offering a set of customized monetary and non-monetary rewards to draw the best of the best: competitive salaries, optimal care, individual development, fame, etc. World-famous organizations like the National Basketball Association (NBA), understand, perhaps better than anyone else, the link between people and bottom line.

How the NBA demonstrates the worth of athletes

In sports, data plays a major role in people management. This is certainly the case inside the NBA. Many rewards offered to the players are tailored and quantified. Data or metrics are used to precisely track rebounds, assists, points, steals, blocks, turnovers, field goal percentage, free throws percentage, fouls and beyond. These firm numbers give coaches, trainers and key actors in the franchise a clear window into the state of the team and the performance level of each player. Data allows them to make predictions, including:

  • Areas where player development is required
  • Levels of player efficiency
  • Overall team strengths and weaknesses
  • Which adjustments are required to improve overall play in future games

What’s more, solid metrics empower and enable the leadership team to estimate risks, plan meaningful player transfers or trades, calculate winning probabilities, estimate returns on investment and measure profitability. It provides sports franchise leaders with an undisputed correlation between people and the bottom line. That is what data analytics does, especially when it is “efficiently managed”!

But how can we apply such metrics to link people and bottom line in non-sports organizations?


Can it work in our own companies as well as it does in the NBA?


How can we measure the impact of HR from top-down or bottom-up?

Rethinking HR as a predictive science

First, we must understand that HR IS NOT different than other functions in the organization. Just as there are ways to predict sales, there are many HR decisions that can be just as predictive and require a proactive approach. Sadly, many leaders are still very reactive when it comes to workforce-related decisions. Here are two common obstacles to success.

1. Hasty hiring

Strong employment decisions require a medium to long-term planning. HR managers often make last-minute hiring decisions, right at the moment they discover a need for additional support (excluding hiring decisions due to a sudden employee resignation). Hiring decisions work best when they can be planned far ahead, ideally 3-6 months in advance or more depending on the job. This decreases the likelihood of hiring the “wrong” candidate too hastily, someone who is not properly vetted and may lack requisite skills, motivation to succeed or is simply not a good fit with the company culture. NBA teams have a minor league or players on the bench to offset these sudden departures due to injury or a trade.

2. “Touchy feely” approach erodes value


Many people exclusively approach HR as a “touchy feely” function. This has been a stumbling block and significant reason why HR is not adequately valued and respected by company leaders. The value and true worth of HR is still not recognized by a large percentage of corporate leaders; some of them do not even see the need to hire an HR professional to recruit, manage and oversee their workforce. For instance, in small and medium-sized organizations (SMEs), it is commonplace to have HR-related responsibilities (onboarding, hiring, employee relations, performance management, recognition, compensation, etc.) delegated to a non-HR specialist. Often this is the owner themselves, an administrative assistant or operations person. I have even seen mature companies with as many as 75 employees using a non-HR professional to handle all people-related matters! Why? The exclusive “touchy and feely” side of HR has over time served to erode its value.

Effective HR management defies these limiting beliefs and powerfully demonstrates the true worth of the HR function to company leaders. After all,

HR is both an art and a science but typically only the art side is emphasized. (the definition of science “meaning the state of knowing [or] know-ledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding.” Merriam Webster Dictionary).

Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre


For this reason, the proper use and analysis of data is critical for HR leaders. Effective data analysis can maximize an organization’s ability to attract, retain, develop, motivate and engage talent for the realization of organizational goals. What’s more, meaningful data can empower business leaders, helping them make more “evidence-based” decisions and facilitate forecasting. Most importantly the use of intelligent, proactive, data-led HR practices will serve to powerfully increase the credibility of HR as a vital and valued function within your overall organization strategy.
So, considering what HR is and the importance of data, how can HR leaders optimize the impact of the HR function? How can they leverage data analysis in order to measurably contribute to the organizational success and profitability of their company?

Re-imagining metrics: beyond sales and customer support productivity

In applying the success story of the NBA and other successful sports organizations, it becomes clear that the impact of HR can be optimized by:

  • Seeing the organization as people-driven: an “engine” that can only produce expected results if all the parts operate efficiently, and
  • Focusing our energy on training, testing, evaluating and sorting people based on data in a way that resonates with shareholders.

Every player matters: organizations as engines

When it comes to basketball, many would agree that without Masai Ujiri (The president of basketball operations for the Toronto Raptors) and Nick Nurse (The head coach of the Toronto Raptors), the two-time basketball champion Kawhi Leonard would have never joined the Toronto Raptors and lead the team to their first championship victory. The historic success of the Raptors has not rested squarely on the shoulders of one person but rather has been the outcome of everyone’s efforts within the organization! Even the staff in charge of preparing the players’ jerseys had an impact. This reality applies in non-sports organizations as well.

In his book Principles, the billionaire investor/philanthropist Ray Dalio defines an organization as “a machine consisting of two parts: culture and people”. He recommends to “think of [our] teams the way that sports managers do: no one person possesses everything required to produce success, yet everyone must excel”.

This principle opposes the traditional bias towards sales and customer support roles within an organization. In fact, the level of productivity of sales and customer support units are always a “hot topic” during leadership and board of directors’ meetings because they are perceived as more quantifiable and linked to revenue. However, we should be able to say the same about other units in a company. This reality in organizations is an opportunity for HR to step up and make an additional, measurable and meaningful impact on the bottom line.

Organizational success truly depends on each and every one’s excellence as part of the team. To make this case to management, HR leaders need to take steps to define for every role in the organization (not just sales and customer support), using meaningful statistics that tie to bottom line. With solid data in hand, the executive team and shareholders will get more visibility and greater ease in decision-making. As a result, the value of HR will finally be incontestable.

The process starts with clear definitions. So, how can we begin to define which HR metrics have the potential to transform HR from a cost centre to a profit centre?

New HR metrics: engaging the workforce through a process of personal evolution
As practiced within the NBA, we must focus on HR metrics that help us fully understand our workforce: who they are, what they do well, where they need our support, and what we can do to help them improve performance (number of accolades, errors, achievements, etc.). This approach aligns with the work principle of Ray Dalio who recommends to “constantly, train, test, evaluate, and sort people” (Principles, Ray Dalio). In other words, HR metrics should assist business leaders to help employees evolve and companies get their returns because, “when you get personal evolution right, the returns are exponential” (Principles, Ray Dalio).
Metrics that link HR and the bottom line
Apply the following metrics in tab 1 for smarter predictions and prompt decision-making in your HR department:

(Note: These metrics will serve you best if you have already hired the best-fit employees and have the right HR processes in place. Also, the examples in tab 1 are not an exhaustive list and vary depending on the responsibilities of the role and hierarchy within the organization.)
Tab1. HR metrics that can be linked to bottom line: A mirror of NBA metrics
NBA metrics
(Definitions from Wikipedia)
Equivalent HR metrics
(Definitions from the Author of this article)

Def. When a team loses possession of the ball to the opposing team before a player takes a shot at their team's basket.
Number of errors or Products defects

Def. Mistakes that can be easily handled and, if immediately resolved, won’t affect the organization. The impact of the mistake is typically internal to the unit, department or organization and does not touch the customer (e.g. Wrong numbers or math in reports, typos in communications, bugs in programming)
Def. Infraction of the rules more serious than a violation. Most fouls occur as a result of illegal personal contact with an opponent and/or unsportsmanlike behavior.
Number of Complaints (from clients and colleagues)

Def. Heavy mistakes from employee that cause a client escalation (e.g. Privacy breach, bad product delivery). This can have an impact on the client loyalty and/or company reputation. These can also be complaints from colleagues (e.g. Harassment, assault, discrimination) and they ultimately have an impact on the company image and potentially on the bottom line if not promptly managed.
Steals/rebounds/ blocks

Def. Steal: When a defensive player legally causes a turnover by his positive, aggressive action(s).

Rebound: When a player retrieves the ball after a missed field goal or free throw.

Block: When a defensive player legally deflects a field goal attempt from an offensive player to prevent a score.
Number of leadership initiatives

Def. Actions that demonstrate employee leadership and desire to improve things, address issues that can slow the process of achieving the goals of the unit or the organization (e.g. Recommending a new process to reduce errors, roll up their sleeves and jump in to help the team when necessary, i.e..: launch a revolutionary product ahead of competitors).

Def. When a player passes the ball to a teammate in a way that leads to a score by field goal, meaning that they were "assisting" in the basket
Number of instances of effective teamwork and fellow employee elevation

Def. Actions that demonstrate employee engagement for effective teamwork and employee elevation (e.g. Knowledge transfer/training, coaching, empowering others, promotions processed per direct report).
Fields goals percentage/ points

Def. Field goal: A basket scored on any shot or tap other than a free throw, worth two or three points depending on the distance of the attempt from the basket.

Points: Score in a game. Points can be accumulated by making field goals (two or three points) or free throws (one point).
Number of:

  • Units produced
  • First call resolutions
  • Sales
  • Successful reports
  • Effective presentations
  • Accolades from colleagues and clients (e.g. In sales roles, people will use the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is a number that represents the chance of a client to recommend a company to other potential clients)

    Def. All these metrics are tangible outcomes that are expected to be achieved by employees. The higher they are, the better it will be for the organization. They have a direct impact on the bottom line.

In summary, the moment has come for HR to evolve, and shine, like the Raptors and other successful sports organizations, through the effective use and analysis of HR metrics. As an HR leader, it’s time for you to rise to the challenge of data analytics and systematize your HR practices to increase productivity, drive higher levels of engagement and prove your department’s true worth. New measurement tools and tactics are now within your reach, to transform your department’s image. No longer will you be perceived as merely a soft ‘touchy feely’ side of the organization once you quantify your value and emerge as a true profit centre. Be guided by a data-driven approach tied more closely to your organization’s mission and wonderful things will transpire. You’ll gain greater visibility, win the respect of senior executives, inspire your staff — and make a predictive, measurable impact on your company’s bottom line.