A Match Made in Heaven!

What makes the perfect partnership? Shared interests? The same values? Mutual respect?

In the case of Mind Tools and SPX Flow, it was “all of the above!”

During our latest webinar, SPX Flow’s Global Director of Talent, Scott Schoenbrun, talked to me about how the relationship between our two organizations began, and why it continues to flourish.

A Passion for Learning

Scott has been an advocate of learning at SPX Flow for more than 10 years, and he firmly believes that learning is about more than information. As he sees it, learning has to involve application.

A leading manufacturer of innovative technologies, SPX Flow has long known that people drive business success. As a result, the company sought out the right tools to develop strong, empowered leaders and managers.

And they wanted to make sure that their teams learned through experience, in the flow of their work.

Enter Mind Tools!

The Challenge at SPX Flow

To begin their journey, SPX Flow had to ask themselves what their end goal was for learning and development – and exactly why they wanted to achieve it.

From early on, they knew that they had to move away from a “classroom” approach, and provide their people with on-demand learning.

And, according to Scott, the “why” was also clear. “With classroom learning, you lose that personalized experience that individuals need. So, we want to be able to focus expectations on the individual and make it relevant to what that person needs, right now.”

They were faced with leading a major change project with a relatively small L&D team. So they decided to focus on their people managers, particularly during their onboarding and management training. It turned out to be a very smart move.

Give the People What They Need!

What those managers needed, they said, was the right information at their fingertips whenever they come across a new issue. Crucially, they also wanted it in a form that suited them.

“With Mind Tools,” Scott explained, “the information is extremely relevant, there is new information coming out all the time, there are various formats. Not everything is a video, not everything is a white paper. This allows our people to choose the format they need to learn. And that’s something that we really like.”

By providing instant access to useful material, Mind Tools has enabled SPX Flow’s people managers to develop the skills and behaviors necessary to be better at their jobs. And that in turn has accelerated the organization’s performance.

Scott’s convinced that this is because his company defined its L&D goals – and then, in Mind Tools, found an approach that matched.

“It’s high quality, and it’s microlearning. We are all extremely busy, so we need to provide information in short bursts that don’t take people away for long periods of time. Mind Tools does this and includes enough information for people to apply and help them on their journey to become successful.”

Engaging Learners at SPX Flow

Scott Schoenbrun is passionate about building on this success. He’s committed to a long-term strategy for providing inspirational L&D, and is determined to keep strengthening engagement among his 900 managers.

To assist with that, our Client Success Team has worked closely with SPX Flow to ensure that Mind Tools is at the forefront of people’s minds. We’ve helped the company to choose resources to supplement quarterly training programs.

We’ve also made sure that the right material is available whenever people need it. As SPX Flow doesn’t use an LMS, we’ve worked together on a system for sharing content via emails and deep links.

“We send a learning tips email every single Monday, as soon as people come into the office,” Scott explained in our webinar. “These are relevant to what’s going on in the business, and we then provide a link where they can go to Mind Tools and learn more about X, Y or Z.

“We want them to be thinking, ‘this is what I need – go to Mind Tools. Here’s a problem I have – go to Mind Tools!’ If we can get that automatic reflex, we’re winning the game.”

Success Stories

The partnership between Mind Tools and SPX Flow has already produced clear results. Equipped with the right tools, managers are now carrying out increasing numbers of effective 1-2-1 and appraisal meetings. And positive development conversations are also on the rise.

“These weren’t happening several years ago to the level they are today,” Scott confirmed. “This has improved by providing people with the right tools, internal communications, and holding them accountable. We did a survey recently and we asked our population: during your last performance review, did your manager talk about development? Almost three quarters of the population said that they had. This is a number we have not seen before.”

And 73 percent of his people are visiting the Mind Tools site every single month.

“That’s something we’ve not seen before with other tools we’ve had out there, and the reason for that is the partnership. If we just launched this ourselves without the support of Mind Tools, we wouldn’t have seen this success. This partnership between SPX Flow and Mind Tools is so significant and has been so rewarding. It is so nice working for a partner who wants you to be successful!”

What’s the Future for Mind Tools and SPX Flow?

Things are looking bright. Mind Tools will continue to work with SPX Flow as a strategic partner, helping to drive their commitment to learner engagement.

Like all the best relationships, it’s dynamic – and exciting on both sides! As Scott put it in the webinar, “Mind Tools resources follow our learning philosophy of access, learn, apply and evaluate. Tools should be applied immediately; it’s not good enough to learn about feedback and then wait a month until I next give feedback to someone.

“And this is what makes it such a good match for us.”

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Why You Should Join the Cool Kids at HR Tech Connect Summit 2019

Over the past decade, we’ve seen big changes in HR — so many that I’d say that now we’re the corporate cool kids’ table. It’s a crazy thing to say about HR, but the amazing advances in HR tech have given us some amazing, shiny new tools that have transformed our jobs and made us the envy of the org chart.

(And since we’re talking about HR, I just want to make one thing clear. We’re a lot better than the catty cool kids’ table we didn’t get to sit at in high school. We’re diverse, inclusive and always down to make new friends!)

But no matter how cool we are, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest in HR tech. Sometimes even we cool kids need a little help, which is why I’m excited to announce that I’m serving as co-chair for a very cool event: the HR Tech Connect Summit, which will be held Nov. 17-19 at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Why Your Boss Will Love for You to Go

Dreading asking for time off so you can attend HR Tech Connect Summit 2019?


You see, HR Tech Connect Summit isn’t like other conferences. It’s completely hosted, meaning that airfare, hotel, meals, registration — you name it — are provided to all qualified attendees. This means you can attend without putting a dent in your company’s travel budget and that you can feel even better about lounging outside in the Florida sunshine during your downtime.

Oh, and it also provides an incredibly intimate, unique opportunity to meet vendors and the movers and shakers shaping the world of HR tech, without worrying about the stress of the lines that accompany the expo booth shuffle.

Unfortunately, a hosted conference means space is limited — but we’re going to try to accommodate as many cool kids as we can! For more information on registration, click here.

Who’s Going to Be There

Co-chair Jessica Miller-Merrell will kick off the conference on Nov. 17 with a roundup on the future of work. And if that’s not enough to get you there, here are a few of the amazing speakers and sessions you don’t want to miss:

  • Workday Chief Technology Officer Joe Wilson: “Unlocking Organizational Agility to Drive Digital Growth.”
  • Dr. Jarik Conrad, senior director of HCM innovation at Ultimate Software: “HR Mega Trends for 2020.”
  • Lou Fiore, vice president HRMS, payroll operations and HR shared services at Sodexo: “Do’s & Don’ts: HR Technology Implementation Recommendations & Lessons Learned.”
  • Amy Weber, community engagement specialist at MOD Pizza: “The Power of Employee Connectivity to Build a High Performance Workplace.”
  • Sadia Ayaz, director of talent management and transformation at Waste Management: “The Massive Shift from Automation to Productivity: Enabling Business Operations Through HR & Technology.”

And if that’s not enough, I’ll be moderating a panel on Nov. 18 on employee engagement with Heidi Gerhard, head of leadership organizational capability and culture at BASF.

Additionally, we’ll have representatives from dozens of innovative HR technology companies, such as AllyO, HiredScore, Beekeeper, WorkForce Software, Humantelligence and many more. We’ll be learning how their platforms are providing measurable benefits for organizations — and the value they can bring to yours.

Want to get involved? Visit the HR Tech Connect Summit website, or send me a DM on Twitter or LinkedIn. We’d love to have you there!

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The Intelligent Edge revolution – The Official Microsoft Blog

I’m old enough now to have experienced several distinct waves of transformation brought by digital technology. As a kid, the personal computing revolution captured my imagination and energy with gaming and programming and new ways to create and do work. As a young adult, personal computers were everywhere and the internet and the World Wide Web connected them, and more importantly, the people using them, in ways that allowed communication and information to flow freely, and for work, commerce, creativity and leisure to be done in radically different ways. In my 30s, the smartphone and an incredible ecosystem of apps and services extended the internet to our pockets, making our connections to information and each other more ubiquitous, helping us navigate our way through the physical world, allowing us to buy almost any good or service we can think of, entertaining us in wonderful new ways, and making collaboration to get our work done more powerful than ever.

Even though that’s already a lot of transformation in a short period of time, and technology has never been more present in our lives, I feel like we’re just getting started. The next wave – one that’s already happening – comes when cheap connected devices with powerful sensors become truly ubiquitous in all of our physical environments, and when those devices become powerful enough to use the techniques of artificial intelligence (AI) to interact with their surroundings and the people in them. We call this combination of connected devices with powerful sensors and AI the Intelligent Edge. A year ago, I shared my belief that the Intelligent Edge would unfold as a platform over the next several years in ways that would surprise us by its breadth and diversity. And it already has.

The Intelligent Edge is proving to be the last mile in the convergence of the digital and physical worlds. –whether it’s a mixed-reality device like HoloLens providing a technician with a digital overlay of analytics, diagnostics and documentation for a piece of equipment they are servicing, or smart devices making the places where we live, work and shop more responsive and interactive, safer and more efficient. Intelligent Edge technologies are already making our homes smarter, improving the yields of our farms, monitoring the environment, helping us navigate our work more effectively, and improving our health and safety.

We’re in the middle of a revolution that is more than just smart speakers, security cameras and clever thermostats. Right now, we have in excess of 12 billion devices connected to the internet. It’s forecast that by the end of this calendar year, that number will rise to 20 billion. We anticipate that billions more of these devices are going to connect to the internet in the next few years. It’s a staggering thought. This Internet of Things (IoT) is already many times larger than the universe of personal computers and smartphones combined, and devices on it are becoming more powerful and more intelligent every day. With the advent of 5G, with its higher throughput, lower latency to the cloud, and higher device densities at the edge, we are likely to see the growth of the Intelligent Edge accelerate even further.

It probably comes as no surprise that I’ve been super stoked by each of the big technology platform waves that I’ve personally experienced, from PCs, to the internet, to smartphones. The Intelligent Edge is no different. I can’t keep from tinkering with these technologies, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’m using bits of the Intelligent Edge platform to build, of all things, an AI-powered siphon vacuum coffee machine. Instead of screens and buttons, my machine has a camera, a microphone, a speaker, a small digital brain and a connection to the cloud. When you focus your attention on it, it notices, and will ask “Would you like a cup of coffee?” When you respond “Yes,” it guides you through the brewing process with a short dialogue. And if you like, it will remember you and your preferences so that you can get your next cup of coffee more quickly.

My coffee machine probably won’t be commercially viable, and no one should mistake my weekend tinkering for a product that might one day show up in the Microsoft store. But one thing that’s become very clear to me as I build this machine is this: The Intelligent Edge parts of the device are neither especially hard nor expensive. I’m having a tougher time designing a safe steam boiler than I am with the AI! The hardware I’m using to run some of the local AI is cheap and readily available, and the software techniques I’m using to split the AI computations between the edge and the cloud are relatively straightforward. The Intelligent Edge and Intelligent Cloud platform that’s already out there for everyone to use is already quite capable. And even though to some, my coffee machine sounds like a crazy sci-fi project, making it a reality doesn’t feel as challenging as writing my first PC program, internet service or mobile app felt in the early days of those platforms.

What I’m most excited about with the Intelligent Edge is not what we’ve already done, nor even what I can imagine might be done with this new platform, but rather, what others will imagine and create as tens of millions of developers, entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers start building new products and businesses with this technology. Given the magnitude of growth ahead of us, and the fact that the platform is becoming more powerful every day, the opportunities for creators, entrepreneurs and businesses are huge. As with any successful platform, the true measure of the Intelligent Edge’s success will be in the breadth and diversity of the things built on top of it. There, I have infinite faith in the vision and ambition of others.

The IoT Signals Report (an annual research survey published by Microsoft) identifies key, industry-relevant trends in IoT. The survey, conducted by individual interviews with more than 3,000 IoT professionals based in Europe, Asia and North America, found that IoT is considered mainstream. Businesses are seeing tremendous value and opportunity in their ability to improve their bottom lines through IoT adoption. Right now, we’re seeing significant advancements in what I call a new world order with the demise of Moore’s law[1] and the collapse of Dennard scaling[2]. This means that compute is no longer becoming cheap at the exact same time that machine learning is becoming an insatiable consumer of compute power. But while this shift is impacting PCs, we will still see a few years where the power and compute capabilities of Intelligent Edge devices will continue to improve exponentially without much increase in cost.

IoT devices that are part of the Intelligent Edge provide businesses with invaluable insights on how to transform processes for operational efficiencies, such as improving the maintenance of vital of equipment before a costly shutdown and accelerating innovation while simultaneously improving safety, for example. As the IoT landscape continues to expand, we can bank on critical breakthroughs in areas that benefit humanity, such as healthcare, conservation, sustainability, accessibility and disaster recovery.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennard_scaling

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The Truth About “Free” L&D

I’ll always remember Christmas 1996. After endless, painful months of waiting, my brother and I finally received the gift we’d been longing for.

That morning, we got our hands on a brand new PlayStation. And it felt like life would never be the same again.

A Glimpse of the Future

What a moment! Suddenly, we had the power to play incredibly good computer games without having to leave our living room. No longer did we have to listen enviously to stories of our friends’ on-screen adventures. Now we had the cutting-edge kit: a vast built-in memory, CD-quality music, 3D graphics…

For once in life, the reality more than lived up to the expectation.

The only problem was, we couldn’t afford any games. Even if we pooled our allowances, it would take us months to save up for anything new.

Playing for Free

But what we did have was “Demo One.” This was the CD that came in the PlayStation box, containing sample versions of about 20 games. And it was great. If you ask anyone from my generation, there’s a good chance they’ll go glassy-eyed when they reminisce about their “Demo One” disk.

I genuinely loved the variety and potential offered by those scaled-down games. They kept my brother and me engaged and excited for months.

Thankfully, we did get hold of new, full-version games eventually, and we saw what our PlayStation could really do!

But I’ll always remember “Demo One.” And I often think about it when I’m talking to prospective clients – particularly if they mention Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs), or say that their people can just search for what they need online.

Because both of those approaches tell me that they’re limiting themselves to cut-down, disconnected, “demo disk” learning.

Free L&D?

“Free” L&D can – like my beloved “Demo One” – be extremely appealing. It beckons to the battle-weary HR leader, sick of being criticized for falling engagement levels and underused resources. On offer: a very modern-looking technology solution from Silicon Valley. (It likely has a cool logo, too.)

But if that leader looks a little closer, they’ll soon see why they’re not paying much for this stuff – if anything. In L&D, as in the rest of the life, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

So, how do these “bargain bucket” providers do it? They use five key techniques – all of which come with warnings attached:

1. Open Source Content

When an LXP takes you into the farthest reaches of the internet, or scoops up user-generated content to share around, who’s testing its quality?

Everyone who uses it should try to check it for accuracy, authority and relevance. But we all know that’s not going to happen.

And when the learners in your organization don’t know what they’re going to get, or how good it is when it arrives, they’ll struggle to engage. As a result, there’s very little chance of them building up the cohesive body of knowledge and skills they need.

2. Advertising

If a company can create content that achieves good SEO traffic, it can make its money from advertising. Unfortunately for readers, the adverts are likely to become more and more intrusive – which is a particular problem when you’re trying to learn.

Ads can also devalue the text they sit in. Serious, relevant subject matter quickly loses its credibility when seen alongside gaudy, flippant advertising.

Some sites even interrupt you with ads mid-flow. “Sorry to bother you, but would you mind answering a few questions from our sponsor?”

For me, personalized ads are the most distracting of all. If I’m investing time to develop myself and my career, I really don’t want to be reminded about the car, holiday or cleaning product I searched for six months ago!

3. Donations

However politely you’re asked to contribute, and however worthy the cause, this is another approach that just doesn’t support good learning.

It’s hard to commit fully to a service that keeps telling you it needs more money to stay in business.

Donation requests can disrupt your train of thought – especially when you’re already pushed for time.

They’re also constant reminders that your company hasn’t provided you with a high-quality, properly paid-for resource.

4. Paywalls

Some L&D sites tempt you in with free material, then shut you out just when things are getting interesting! That’s fair enough if you’re a public consumer – but not if it’s your company providing you with such limited access to learning.

It dampens your enthusiasm and disrupts your plans. Every time you hit the paywall, you feel like you’re banging your head against a… well, you get the idea!

5. Partners

Be wary of content that’s only free if you agree to receive marketing messages – not just from the learning provider, but also from their myriad commercial partners. In my book, L&D shouldn’t feel like a shopping trip!

Once again, high-quality learning will be hampered if you’re constantly being prodded to look, reply – and buy – elsewhere.

Demand More!

Thinking back to 1996, my brother and I were remarkably understanding. We knew that our parents had pushed themselves to buy the PlayStation, and we patiently stuck with our sample disk until we finally got the “real thing.”

However, the people in your organization probably won’t be so forgiving!

LXPs are still in their infancy. New sources of free content are springing up all the time. Maybe people need to play “Demo One” a bit longer before the message fully hits home.

But, leave it too long, and I’m convinced that the problems caused by cut-price learning will take their toll.

Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain

It’s something I’m passionate about. It’s also an increasingly regular conversation point with clients. Money’s tight, targets are tough. They’re under pressure to help everyone to learn and grow. But they can just point their people toward the cool logo, and the free resources, can’t they?

No, is my answer, loud and clear. You can do so much better – for all the reasons above, and based on everything else I’ve learned, from my PlayStation days onward.

You may be saving cash by providing entry-level access to learning. But, in the long run, you and your people will pay the price of sticking with “demo disk” L&D.

Patrick Burns is Mind Tools’ Enterprise Accounts Manager for North America.

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Microsoft and Jio: Accelerating India’s digital progress

Today we announced a comprehensive long-term alliance with Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (Jio), a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited. This is an exciting advancement that will accelerate India’s digital transformation and bring the latest technologies to millions of businesses across the country. This alliance represents a unique collaboration between our two organizations.

Jio has transformed the communication and data landscape here in India, connecting more than 340 million people in the country with the power of affordable data. Microsoft has helped businesses revolutionize the global landscape of digital transformation with the worldview of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge. With a solid foundation of trust, we’re committed to accelerating the pace of innovation and delivering more value to every customer, be it large enterprises, SMBs, startups or consumers, and our partners.

This unique alliance also reinforces our commitment to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Earlier today, this announcement was shared as part of the Reliance Industries Annual General Meeting where Reliance Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh D. Ambani shared the news. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shared his thoughts as well and reinforced our enthusiasm for the work we will do together and the potential benefits our alliance can bring to organizations across India, and to the country itself.

YouTube Video

What this means for businesses 

India has one of the largest small and medium business markets in the world, which continues to grow significantly. Small and medium businesses in India will have access to a range of cloud-based productivity, collaboration and business applications including Office 365, enabling them to compete more effectively in the Indian marketplace. This collaboration will accelerate innovation to create more affordable offerings for Indian SMBs and startups, including a new range of solutions for one-stop IT capabilities and allowing front-end applications on mobile devices, desktops and other tools.

Jio will build new custom solutions on Microsoft Azure for large enterprises who have already benefited from our technology platforms. Companies will also have easy and affordable access to best-in-class technologies like data analytics, AI, cognitive services, blockchain, IoT and edge computing to accelerate India’s digital transformation and enable grassroots innovation.

Jio will also leverage Microsoft’s speech and language cognitive services for its device ecosystem, providing support in 13 Indian languages, with the flexibility to add other languages. Its internal workforce will now leverage the cloud-based Microsoft 365 productivity and collaboration tools and all their non-network applications will also move to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

For the partner ecosystem in India, these new offerings create more avenues for greater innovation, deeper customer relationships and exponential growth for their businesses. And in a diverse nation of 1.3 billion people united by the power of digital, the solutions this collaboration will bring around connectivity, computing, storage and tech services will redefine how we empower employees, enable customers, transform products and optimize operations.

This joint effort is likely to unlock and accelerate digital innovation in India at an unprecedented scale. I look forward to working with and learning from our current and new customers and partners as we chart a new path with this alliance.


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Healthcare Benefits are Broken. Fixing Them Requires Redefining the Industry.

Much attention has been paid to fixing our country’s broken healthcare system. But what often gets missed are the problems with employer-sponsored health benefits and the role they play within the broader healthcare crisis. Employers in North America alone are spending hundreds of billions of dollars to provide healthcare benefits to their teams. In fact, the current cost is estimated to be $15,000 per employee, with 49% of the U.S. population relying on employer-provided health benefits.

The current problems with healthcare benefits were exemplified in a recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report for League. The report surveyed 238 executives about employee health benefits. The findings illustrate how companies and employees alike have fallen into a lose-lose cycle where healthcare costs keep rising while the experience — and even the benefits themselves — get worse. Employees are often left unsure and overwhelmed about what benefits they have, how to properly use them and which healthcare decisions to make. A dizzying number of benefits vendors and digital platforms make this more confusing than ever. Meanwhile, HR teams are spread thin trying to answer questions and guide employees.

So what’s the solution? One thing is for sure: it won’t be found in the status quo. For companies to reduce healthcare costs while also engaging employees, the entire ecosystem needs to fundamentally rethink the health benefits system. What’s needed is an entirely new category focused on an employee-centered health benefits experience.

When Lack of Awareness Leads to Lack of Engagement

The Harvard Business Review responses showed a stark lack of awareness among employees, which has larger implications for their long-term health. Sixty-three percent of respondents said employees don’t know enough about how to leverage their company-provided health benefits. Meanwhile, more than half (58%) of organizations reported that employees are unaware of the health benefits they are entitled to. This lack of awareness extends to the quality and cost of healthcare, as well as which plan is right for them.

The consequence of this lack of understanding shouldn’t be surprising: employees can’t use something if they’re unsure of its existence or don’t know how to. Just 28% of respondents said that employees actively engage with all of the health benefit programs they are offered. In fact, employees reportedly use the full range of health benefits at only a little over one-quarter (27%) of organizations.

These statistics become alarming when you consider that a large number of chronic illnesses are preventable. The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of heart disease and stroke, 80% of type 2 diabetes and 40% of cancer could be prevented with simple lifestyle changes like healthier eating and moderate exercise. An employee-centered benefits platform, with personalized health profiles and journeys, could empower people to better manage their health, with dramatic potential to improve outcomes.

Burnout on Both Sides

There’s a more far-reaching impact of this lack of awareness and engagement: both employees and HR teams are overwhelmed and fatigued. Employees are often required to access multiple disparate systems in order to learn about and access their full range of health benefits. Only 10% of organizations reported that employees can use only one system to do this. At many organizations, employees need to use three, five or even more systems.

Employee confusion and frustration are being passed on to HR teams, whose time is being taken up answering routine questions from employees about coverage, out-of-pocket maximums and co-pays. In consequence, 41% of organizations report that HR doesn’t have the time or resources to perform more strategic activities, like benefits planning.

Rethinking the Benefits Experience

This holistic problem can only be solved by a solution that helps both employees and employers. It’s time to rethink the system in its entirety to focus on the overarching health benefits experience —not tools, or platforms, that cater to only parts of the ecosystem, but a centralized platform that can help you, no matter who you are or what you need, get the help and support you need from a benefits perspective. Companies from entertainment to retail have disrupted industries by focusing on personalized platforms that cater to a user’s unique needs for a better experience. Imagine the potential of recreating this model not to stream movies or order groceries, but to help people live healthier lives.

What employees need is a “front door” to their benefits. Instead of multiple accounts and platforms, employees should be able to access and learn about all of their benefits from a single source. Simplifying the source of information and engagement will help employees understand and use their benefits.

The benefits experience should also be completely separate from both the employer and the insurance company. Employees deserve a trusted, neutral place where they can get health advice and support. This environment will empower people to proactively manage their health and utilize their full range of benefits.

The good news is, there’s reason to be optimistic that companies are ready to demand a better experience for their employees. Our report found that the majority (68%) of organizations are open to changing their employee health care experience.

A better benefits platform is one that prioritizes engagement and supports employees in being better healthcare consumers. It’s one that ultimately helps employers break the higher cost/ worse experience cycle by driving benefit utilization and reducing costs. These changes are necessary to creating a health benefits system that works for everyone. For further insight into these findings, download “The Key to Better Health.”


This post is sponsored by League.

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#WorkTrends: How to Take Control of Your Career as an “Employeepreneur”

We’ve all had those moments. You’re sitting at your desk, frustrated with your job, wondering just why your coworkers seem so happy. Are they crazy? Are you?

Well, maybe a few of them are, but they can’t all be. That revelation sent Dethra Giles on a journey of self-discovery, and by the end of it, she’d mastered the art of navigating her career. Now, she’s a leadership coach, keynote speaker, and author sharing her wisdom throughout the professional world — and with our audience this week on #WorkTrends.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Your Biggest Distraction is Yourself

Giles sees her job as helping people optimize performance and eliminate distractions. But what are the distractions that hold us back? “Our biggest distractions are ourselves,” she says.

She points to quite a few of her clients who don’t apply for jobs because they’re scared of failure, a universal feeling. Or, as Giles puts it: “our messed-up way of thinking about ourselves.”

But why we are our own worst enemies? Giles says it’s simple. “We have killed that little kid in us who believed we could do anything,” she says. To get back on track, you’ve got to channel that brave kid — the one who had no problem climbing trees, getting hurt, and taking a few chances.

How We Can Be Better Leaders and Managers

But what about how we can impact others? Giles says that many organizations’ leaders fail because they do not have an accountability strategy. It’s something that confounds her. There is not much to an accountability strategy, she says. In fact, these strategies are pretty basic. “This isn’t new stuff,” she says. “We’ve learned these things since kindergarten.”

Additionally, Giles says, she believes that managers are simply not given enough training. Instead, too many organizations are focused on training their C-Suite, and they ignore the people who are in the trenches day-to-day with an organization’s employees. In her previous position working in HR for a large university in Atlanta, she actually made it a point to implement more training for managers. She found that managers who had more training earlier received fewer discrimination complaints, fewer sexual harrassment complaints, and fewer employee relations complaints. It was also better for the organization’s bottom line. “If we trained them earlier, we saved money,” she explains.

Why The Tough Conversations Are So Important

Giles is a strong proponent of addressing difficult, thorny issues in the workplace, such as race, religion, and politics. She believes that it’s a necessary part of moving these conversations forward, and finds it strange that people shy away from talking about tough issues. After all, she says, nearly every organization has a diversity initiative — “But you don’t want us to talk about it? That is the most backwards thing ever,” she says.

Ultimately, the lack of conversations around these topics stem from the same fear factor holding us back in other areas of our lives. We’re scared of talking about these topics in a way that might offend someone, or perhaps we don’t even know how to talk about some of these issues. “The reality is, we don’t want to address our incompetence and our fear,” Giles explains. But there’s only one way to address that incompetence: jump right in! You’re going to feel a lot better once you do.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

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How Leaders at a 100-Year-Old Company Built an Innovative Recruiting Process

Tech and recruiting go hand in hand. It’s hard to recruit without a strong HR tech stack. But implementing these tools can be a challenge. If you work in HR, you may have experienced pushback from employees who don’t want to change their workflows, or from senior leaders who aren’t sold on the ROI of rolling out new recruiting tech.

But no matter how daunting change — or the Autobahn-like pace of it — may seem, tech is here to stay in HR, and if you want to attract quality candidates and create a candidate experience that serves them, you’ll have to embrace that change.

Angie Wesley, senior vice president and head of talent acquisition at TIAA, has overseen a wholesale change in the company’s recruiting process, as it has embraced new tech to navigate the modern candidate marketplace. “It was either going to come to us or we were going to have to join it,” she says. The tools have helped the organization, particularly in regard to creating a better candidate experience and creating a more streamlined process for compliance.

She shared her experience and advice for HR organizations implementing the tech tools they need to keep up with the Joneses.

Train, Train, and Train Some More

When it came to introducing new technology and automation to the recruiting process, Wesley says there wasn’t much organizational pushback, though she did have to navigate the concerns of her recruiters. “A lot of these recruiters are seasoned, so they have their own way of moving candidates through the process,” Wesley says. “We just had to make sure that we could show them how technology actually helps them, instead of inhibiting them.

To help recruiters understand the power of their new tools, TIAA used a variety of training programs, working with vendors to provide either in-person or web-based training. Wesley’s team also helped recruiters understand how their new tools had helped other businesses.

But Wesley says training isn’t just for implementation. Her team tracks the usage of some tools so they can see whether staffers are having issues. “If we have folks that are not using a certain technology or tool that’s in the process, we’re able to identify them and work with them to understand what the difficulty might be,” she says.

Put Candidates First

It should go without saying that employees’ comfort with their tech tools is a priority for organizations. But Wesley says the primary question TIAA asks about its recruiting tools is related to a different audience: candidates. “Candidate experience really sits at the front,” she says.

In order to meet candidates on their own terms, TIAA created a device-agnostic application process, and also updated its website to ensure it was mobile-friendly. “That was clearly a gap we needed to close,” Wesley says.

Candidates are provided assessments that can be done online on a schedule that is convenient to them, and TIAA has begun to embrace technology such as text messaging to further its commitment to reaching candidates on their own terms. “Not everybody’s checking their email,” Wesley says. “Texting is real time, and that allows us to immediately get some responses.”

The company also started a talent network to demonstrate its value to potential candidates, even if there isn’t necessarily a job available at the moment.

Wesley says TIAA’s embrace of technology is helping it meet the demands of a candidate-centered employment market. TIAA uses video interviews so that candidates don’t necessarily have to come to the office. “The majority of the population is currently working, so it’s a passive market,” Wesley says. “We don’t really want to intrude or disrupt their day.”

Keep Recruiting Human

Ultimately, rolling out tech in the recruiting process comes with an important consideration: making sure you keep the human element front and center. “What we are finding is candidates still want that human touch in the process somewhere,” Wesley says. “They don’t want technology to take care of everything.”

While Wesley says there’s no magic formula, she believes recruiting leaders need to understand the importance of telling their story and highlighting what makes their organization a unique place to work. “It’s hard to get technology to tell that story versus a human on the phone,” she says. In other words, technology is just the first step. “We leverage technology to start the conversation, and then we step in to finish it.”

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Couldn’t attend San Francisco Design Week? Here’s What You Missed

If you’re into design of any shape or form, you MUST have heard about the San Francisco Design Week. This is a week-long event that takes place in the city and showcases a unique panel of ideas for design, business and entrepreneurialism from countries around the world. 

Some of the ideas and work featured give us unique ways of looking at the world, whether that’s food, technology, architecture, interior design, communication design or travel (and much more!). 

So, if you’re a lover of all things design but could not attend the renowned event, here are some of the highlights from this year’s instalment.  

The Sustainability Treehouse 

When you think about design, communication design probably isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind, but it’s an integral and important part of the field. Volume Inc is the 2019’s award winner in this category, thanks to their design of an exhibition program commissioned by the Boy Scouts of America and Trinity Works. Telling the story of sustainability through a Sustainability Treehouse, the experience engages with Boy Scouts to leave them with a new perspective of sustainability. Entirely powered by wind and sun, water provided by rainfall and all its waste recycled and reused, the design of the Treehouse translates the principles of sustainability into everyday live that can be applied to one’s own home. 

Taking Design from Concept to Manufacturing 

This instructional workshop was only one of the many events of the week, but we’ve heard particularly good feedback for this one. This ‘instructional workshop’, as it was described, aimed to leave attendees with step-by-step instructions on how to take an idea for a product to the manufacturing stage. The team of interior designers at Pearlfisher San Francisco advice that many designers get stuck at the concept stage and achieving the actual manufacturing stage is one of the hardest steps. 

The workshop featured a presentation from Adrien Rovero, a designer responsible for the San Francisco Design Week ‘Shore’ installation, and his experience to get his project to the manufacturing stage. 

Night of (Re)Branding Stories 

Branding and re-branding is a tricky exercise that has seen even the biggest brands trip and fail. The event consisted of an evening with leading brand designers who delivered an exclusive behind-the-scene talk on some of the challenges and mishaps in the world of rebranding. 

If you’re a designer and keen to get into brand design, that’s a topic that cannot be missed – if you couldn’t attend the event, you can always research the top stories and study brand evolution as well as the criticism it generated, and you’ll be able to learn a lot from there. 

Zero Waste Lifestyle Culinary Design Collection 

If you’ve never heard the term “zero waste”, you’ve probably been living under a rock! With plastic and pollution challenges, looking for alternatives such as zero waste lifestyle or plastic free items have been an increasing trend. Aplat is a design company that presented their modern culinary items collection at the SF Design Week and initiated attendees to the principles of their zero waste design as well as manufacturing process (in San Francisco itself!). A great workshop for those looking to find out more about designing zero waste products. 

San Francisco Design Week is a world-renowned event that takes place every year, so if you love design, we’d suggest looking into attending next year’s event if you can. It’s a great excuse to visit the city if you’ve never been and the events always offer valuable insights in all industries and areas of design. 

7 Tips to Manage a Diverse Workforce

Diversity! It’s an important topic we’re talking about a lot lately. Here’s something to think about: We often talk about diversity and inclusion within the confines of training and programs. But what about the day-to-day challenges and best practices of managing a diverse workforce? Here are seven tips from HR experts to help you successfully manage a diverse workforce.

Stop Thinking of Diversity as a Buzzword

HR is full of buzzwords these days, but diversity isn’t one of them — nor should it be treated as one. Too many organizations fall prey to superficial efforts to increase diversity. Programs and initiatives can be great tools, but they’re ultimately temporary.

Instead, remember that building a diverse and inclusive organization is something you must work on every day, just as your sales team hustles for leads and your accounting team keeps the books in order.

Make Diversity Part of Your Hiring Process

Building a diverse organization from the ground up takes time. Try auditing your hiring process to ensure that you’re interviewing a diverse slate of candidates. “Mandate that before a requisition can be closed, you have to be shown that you had a diverse slate,” says Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, chief human resources officer at Symantec.

Taking this actionable step is small, but it ensures that hiring officers aren’t simply hiring people who remind them of themselves. “It starts at the hiring process,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. If you want to show that you’re serious about building a more diverse organization, you have to look critically at how you assess and hire candidates.

Build Connections to Create Talent Pipelines

It’s enormously important to build internal talent pipelines for your organization, and ensuring that you have standards in your hiring process for interviewing diverse candidates is an important step toward creating a more inclusive business and culture.

But in order to create a truly diverse pipelines, companies need to look outside their walls, says La’Wana Harris, diversity and inclusion consultant and author. Harris recommends that companies reach out externally to organizations devoted to promoting diversity in the workplace, as well as educational institutions such as historically black colleges and universities. You’ll find plenty of talented candidates, and also will expand your hiring base.

Make Sure Leadership Is Aligned with Your Goals

Managing a diverse culture can be challenging at times. But without buy-in from leadership from the very beginning, it may be a lost cause.

As you look to address issues of diversity in your organization, be sure that leadership is briefed and on board with your plans. “If you don’t have leadership support, these things fail,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. Additionally, leadership’s behavior and actions will serve as examples for all levels of the organization, and set the tone for what’s expected of employees.

Examine Your Policies to Fight Systemic Inequality

Creating a more inclusive organization takes effort. But no matter what actions an organization takes, it must also be aware that its policies may be promoting systemic inequality. “Workplace policies, systems and processes can disproportionately impact historically marginalized populations,” Harris says.

To counter this, audit your policies. Ensure that your family-leave policy is supportive of LGBTQ parents as well as traditional couples. “Remote-work policies are another point of consideration for building a truly inclusive work environment,” Harris says. “Remote work can open up opportunities for individuals with visible and invisible disabilities.”

Create a Culture of Empathy and Forgiveness

Just as with any process within your organization, there will be hiccups with diversity and inclusion. But both Cappellanti-Wolf and Harris say that’s OK — and it’s no big deal. “We’re all struggling with the same challenges,” Cappellanti-Wolf says.

Leaders need to admit to mistakes, and to encourage others to do the same. Harris says that one way leaders can do this is by adopting a servant leadership mindset. “How do you bring out the best in someone else?” she says. “I’m a proponent of leaders making it their No. 1 goals to mine their employees: mine for the genius, mine for their power, mine for their brilliance.”

Ultimately, it’s about unlocking the potential in your employees. By tailoring your leadership philosophies to meet their needs, you’ll be better able to empathize with them, and when hiccups occur, they’ll understand that an honest mistake was made.

Find Your Blind Spots

Leaders must have the self-awareness to know that they’ll have certain blind spots when it comes to their employees and their employees’ experience. For example, maybe a leader doesn’t know the pronouns an employee prefers.

But what’s most important in these situations is that leaders be aware of their blind spots — and that they work to solve them. “I like to look at it as mirrors, windows and doors,” Harris says. “You look in the mirror and that’s self-awareness. You look out the window and you get perspectives from others to try to get a clue about your blind spots.”

The final step is the door — “What actions do I need to take to build an inclusive environment?”

This article was originally published in 2016 and substantially reworked in July 2019.

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