In this month's Q&A, EBX asked Tim Ringo, a Partner in Maxxim Consulting to put on the back of his imaginary envelope some thoughts about leadership and workforce performance. Tim's main focus is helping clients develop engaged, high performing workforces aligned to corporate centre strategy and business objectives. With over 20 years experience in helping clients create organisation and workforce performance through effective talent management strategy, processes and technologies.
Previously, Ringo was Vice President and Global Leader of IBM’s Human Capital Management (HCM) consulting practice, based in London, England. He led a team of more than 1500 Human Capital consulting professionals around the world. He joined IBM Global Business Services in 2006 after 16 years at Accenture, where he was Executive Partner Human in Accenture’s Human Performance Service Line. Here's what he had to say...
1. What is at the core of effective workforce performance?
Understanding what motivates a workforce to become high performing, and matching this to how an organisation performance manages and rewards its people is key. Recent research is showing that what motivates people at work is very complex and does not always come down to money.
Daniel Pink’s superb book, Drive is a must-read for understanding the latest research on what motivates workforces. Ultimately what we are finding is that as long as the basic needs of the employee are taken care of (basic pay/basic benefits), they are more motivated but what they do, who they work with/for, and what they are achieving for the organization, than they are motivated by money.
Tapping into this higher order of motivation, creates higher performing, more engaged workforces. On the other hand, the research shows increasing yearly bonuses has been shown to actually decrease motivation and performance.
2. What are the toughest organisational change challenges in today’s economy?
Workforce engagement – most companies are reporting serious dips in their engagement scoring, after a long and difficult economic environment. This has created workforces that have become highly risk averse and are even more resistant to change. The companies that are positioning best to come out of recession, understand this, and are addressing the morale of their workforces. For example, they are putting in place skills development and other programmes to help their people build deeper skills and become more engaged in the business strategy and performance.
3. We have seen progress in business thought from Funky Business to Making Capital Dance, in a cash-strapped economy, what should employers look for when seeking talent, what kind of check-list do you keep in mind?
I look for people who have unusual, yet well rounded backgrounds. Particularly people that have done a lot of different things, while managing a constant career track record of achievement. I also look for people who have a good amount of self-awareness of their strengths and weaknesses as these employees make good team-players. I hear many of my clients also seeking similar types of traits.
4. Which kind of leadership skills are paramount for a business seeking new products and sectors? For example, Nokia transformed itself from a small rubber company to a global communications firm.
it’s the old mainstays of innovation and entrepreneurship. An easy combination to articulate, but extremely difficult to find and develop – and retain. Most people who have these skills, have a certain amount innately, however, others can be developed and coached to develop these skills, as well.
It really requires a company culture that demonstrably values these skills/attitudes, to create an environment where people thrive in creating new things, and new ideas. This type of organization means it when they say “let a thousand flowers bloom” – meaning they do not dwell on the failures, but learn from them, and move on. IBM is, recently, a good example of developing a culture that rewards innovation, and capitalises on it - and gets it to market.
5. When looking for talented staff, what kind of facets of their character stand out?
People who show the ability to regularly reflect on their failures, and develop them into a lesson learned, and consequently, a strength. This is an impressive, and rare trait of a truly talented person/team.
6. Which technologies are currently shaping workforce performance and efficiency?
Without question in my mind, it would be social media. This is not a “fad” but a new way of working and living, equivalent to the invention of email a few decades ago. The ability to instantly tap into a vast knowledge base, by reaching out directly to individual experts or leverage the “wisdom of the crowd” is very powerful. Social media is creating a highly effective approach to human and organisational collaboration.
7. How do you advise companies to use technology to leverage the next leap for their business? Data derived change – looking for the unmet needs? Or Marketing with data – pushing to a strong consumer database?
Technology should either be an enabler of a process and/or a gatherer of data for your organization and your customers. In the end, its only as good as your people or your customer’s abilities to use it. So, the more “social” your systems become, the more connected they are to people and the more effective they are for your organisation’s performance. The other key to leveraging technology is your organisation’s ability to analyse and come to correct conclusions about the data that your technology is gathering for you. This ability to analyse and synthesise data (the idea of “data analytics”) is rapidly becoming a key competitive advantage.
8. Who are your top five ‘Change’ role models – at least two women, at least one European.
Jonathan Ive – designer of the iPhone/iPad
Rene Carayol – UK business guru
9. As a society, how do we innovate more, change more quickly and achieve a stronger business culture?
As a society we need to encourage people to take risk, and accept failure is, in many instances, the best route to success. We need to start to instill this in children in school, in universities and in the workplace. Innovation comes from trying out the whacky and wonderful, and trying to make it work.
10. Which is the ‘stand-out’ region for organisational change in Europe?
In my experience, the UK has the highest number of “change management” professionals/experts per capita, to just about anywhere in the world, yet ironically UK companies are among the most resistant to managing organizational change. I find the opposite is true in Nordic countries, which must be why many of the UK’s change management professionals seem to do many projects in Northern Europe!
Tim is a Visiting Speaker at Cass Business School, City University, London. He is currently co-authoring a book for Harvard Business Press, on workforce analytics titled, Calculating Success, due out in 2011. He is also a sought-after expert on the topic of Human Capital Management where he is regularly interviewed by major media publications as well as a keynote speaker and panellist for Human Capital, HR and IT conferences around the world.