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Been to Home Depot lately? If not, go and see how a good HR strategy equals a good marketing strategy!  And no, they’re not paying me for this.

In the midst of this record heat wave, I got up early to replace a hose so my lawn doesn’t burn out, and some weed killer, and Home Depot is conveniently close by. Several years ago, I would drive elsewhere because, IF I could find a clerk, they might have known where these were, IF I could get their attention.

Today, I was greeted as if I were the only thing that mattered and, after describing my needs, I was introduced to a herbicide expert who helped me find exactly what I needed. Then he escorted me to the hoses, ensuring that I had the necessary help (none required, really…).

What changed? A couple of years ago HR chief Tim Crow renovated training programs, expanded cash bonuses and increased employee/customer face time. And they’re having an impact: after a 2-year slide in sales and profit, both were up last year.

If the goal of marketing is to attract and retain customers well, it’s working at Home Depot, with a huge assist from HR.

And my wife no longer minds going there.

Regardless of which side you are on, the US is clearly in one of the most fundamental debates on the role of government in a long, long time. Passions are high. Rhetoric is flying. Fears abound. Yet neither side wants to budge – ‘tough’ rules the day.

Which may be the only salvation.

There are no simple solutions left. And the realization is starting to sink in. Lou Gerstner once said, “No institution will go through fundamental change unless it believes it is in deep trouble and needs to do something different to survive.” Andy Grove said it differently: “only the paranoid survive.”

Survival ruled the day at IBM. It did in Greece. And it will in the US.

The question is, does survival rule the day at your organization?

If not, get tough.

Here’s another one: ‘work smarter, not harder!’

I hope you’ve never used this one in a misguided attempt to motivate a subordinate. If you have, you’ve just told the employee they’re dumb. Not very motivational, eh?

Personally, I don’t think employees are dumb (and if you have one, how did they get hired in the first place? And in the second place, why are they still with you?). Read the rest of this entry »

Who hasn’t heard at one time during their career, from a boss, ‘don’t bring me problems, bring me a solution?’

How silly is this? If all your boss does is ratify a solution, what good is s/he? Further, if you have a solution, why the heck aren’t you out there implementing it?

Worse, Read the rest of this entry »

Why do some companies consistently outperform their peers?

The debate on CEO pay may seem to be only simmering for the moment, while other events dominate the news cycle, but it has not gone away. Working where I do, one of the things we study is the value of, and how to recognize, effective leadership – now, the Best Companies for Leadership; later, the Most Admired Companies. Read the rest of this entry »

Lord Horatio Nelson

For several decades now, I’ve been a student, observer and participator in strategy (corporate, branding and marketing) and organization – getting these right is, of course, critical to success. But I’ve seen many cases where carefully prepared plans and their support structures have not resulted in the desired results.

Reading To Rule the Waves, a gripping history by Arthur Herman, I was struck by the role communications played in two Royal Navy engagements, 25 years apart, each of immense strategic consequences: Yorktown in 1781 and Trafalgar in 1805.

Communications dictated the outcome of each, one a failure that lost a continent and one a victory that established naval pre-eminence for more than a century. The lesson: everyone in the organization must understand what needs to be done for a plan to be successfully executed. Read the rest of this entry »

Anyone who travelled in the Northeast US in the first two weeks of February has a story to tell – I heard a few in crowded trains and lounges. For example, in the midst of the blizzard, many of the eateries in Philadelphia shut down (imagine that!), and hotels did their best to serve their clients even with limited staff, many of whom had to overnight on the properties. By and large, no one complained, and there was a sense that we were all in this together.  

My intercity travel was by train and I found the Amtrak on-board and station personnel both helpful and cheerfully positive as they dealt with passengers trying to get somewhere in the face of cancelled and delayed trains. Read the rest of this entry »

Once again, I find myself flabbergasted at service levels in the midst of the worst recession most of us have ever seen.  In my post How not to make a sale, I describe how a retailer drove us from a physical establishment after we had committed to buy. But it appears that direct retail operations are also not immune mistakes in organization, job design and incentives that result in lousy service.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hay Group‘s research on the Fortune Most Admired Companies shows that those who make the matrix work get results: better and faster decisions. The seemingly simple trick is getting managers to act in the best interests of the company as a whole, not just maximizing their own results.

But this has implications for jobs, rewards, behaviors, culture and structure. Most critical: command-and-control management styles must give way to collaboration and cooperation. To crack the matrix code, organizations must: Read the rest of this entry »

Since 2005, Hay Group has researched the Best Companies for Leadership. In previous years our research focused on understanding how organizations were planning on meeting the impending leadership shortage, driven by growth in emerging markets coinciding with the retirement of the baby boomer generation. Read the rest of this entry »

Have you ever been so put off by bad selling that you simply walked, even when you were really, really ready to buy?  

My wife and I did just that yesterday – stunned that the retail establishment drove us do this in the midst of the worst recession most of us have ever seen. But the really sad thing to me is that management wasted all its marketing, branding and PoS advertising investments by cutting investments in its people.  Read the rest of this entry »

I think I first became intrigued by the potential of innovation as a Peace Corps volunteer in one of the most resource-deprived countries in the world. I saw, surprisingly, an incredibly inventive people: Read the rest of this entry »

Frank Rich recalls one of my favorite passages of The Best and the Brightest, in a NYT OpEd, which was also the author’s:  ‘Halberstam wrote that his favorite passage in his book was the one where Johnson, after his first Kennedy cabinet meeting, raved to his mentor, the speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, about all the president’s brilliant men. “You may be right, and they may be every bit as intelligent as you say,” Rayburn responded, “but I’d feel a whole lot better about them if just one of them had run for sheriff once.” Read the rest of this entry »

Seeing increasing interest in Emotional Intelligence, either a sign of the times, or maybe because of results like these: Read the rest of this entry »

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