I found it interesting to read an article on the NZ Herald talking about the industry of personality tests as a way used by organisations to reduce the risk of recruiting the wrong people. (p.s. as opposed to increasing the chance of hiring the best people). It’s unfortunately, supporting my view that the challenge we are facing in New Zealand and elsewhere is a problem of talent waste not shortage. Our fundamental assumptions about work are causing our economy to be stuck on no growth and less pay.
When I arrived in New Zealand 17 years ago I was lucky. I somehow landed an interview on the first week with a hiring manager who was open minded and inclusive. He had no issue to consider someone for a leadership position that had no New Zealand or industry experience and not the best English. If I was not that lucky then and try it today, I would have straggled to even pass the “sophisticated” screening tests. When later, I asked that person why he thought to hire me, his answer was “ability to demonstrate positive attitude, overcoming hardship and a passion for the task at hand”.
I took that answer as a guiding principle when later looking for people’s potential. However, throughout the years I was surprised to learn what are the common hiring and talent growth strategies and the way it is limiting potential with a set of assumptions that haven’t been tested. The current economy in New Zealand is of very low unemployment rate. This is considered a good problem to have. However, in this economy many of the existing recruitment and talents growth strategies are making organisation’s talents challenges even worse.
Screen for average
Organisations screen based on past skills and personality traits out of a very limited and not in their control pool. Because organisations assume these can limit mistakes. Most organisations recruit the same way: post a job, screen resumes, interview some people, pick whom to hire. This is hiring for average. Most top performers are not looking for work precisely because they are top performers, so they won’t be in that pool anyway. Further to that we apply screening as if we had plenty of candidates to select from based on criteria that no one can prove or link to performance. For example, why do we assume that to be an awesome UX designer in a bank requires previous experience in precisely the same job in the banking industry???.
Existing practices like Job descriptions and hiring decisions are entrenching biases not just based on gender, age, ethnicity etc. It is now becoming worse by the flooding of personality tests and AI key words, proclaiming to identify a fit with the organisation and the job before you even talk to the person. Most organisations are not really aware of the culture they currently have, and even if they do, not always this is the one they wish to have. What makes up a person is far more complex than a set of words or letters combination to describe their personality. With a year of research I found no evidence that anyone showed a validated, predictable link between common tests used and performance. All we do is screening out diversity. Even the approach of matching with a model persona designed based on your current top performers is problematic as it ensures more of the same. (There are decades of validated research about human personality psychology and motivation that are very useful for people to increase self awareness, it is more our understanding of how to use these researches that is the problem).
Filling the gaps
Hiring managers usually compromise on appointments to fill gaps assuming they can fix potential shortcomings with some training. Designing effective training is hard. It has to be personalised, in context, and internalised over a long period of time. In most cases organisations don’t actually know what and how to cause sustained improvement in performance, particularly when considering that a big (even if unknown) part of high performance is influenced by the environment (i.e. the manager, the team, the organisation culture, and the leadership style). Add to that the commonly held financial point of view of “we don’t expect to invest much in talent growth because we assume people move around anyway”. But what happens if you don’t? I passionately believe in expanding peoples strengths, ensuring every experience is a growth experience. This is a positive sum game, where everyone wins. Current approach ensures no growth hence flat productivity at best and people do leave, particularly the top performers because they are motivated by personal growth.
No use of data
We would have been better if we actually used data sourced from personality tests and other screening and performance data points to reflect and improve. Currently we still use like/ dislike and personal intuition as the best predictor of future success. Even if data is available, it is used only as supporting material at the beginning. Organisations don’t usually go back to reflect and improve. With a new sense making model , there is a huge opportunity to create new insights and positive actions based on big data derived from knowing people, knowing organisations and knowing performance.
To summaries, in my view there is an ever growing industry that is trying to pull the short blanket to cover skills gaps. This industry made not much difference in recent decades to people’s fulfillment or productivity growth. We have to fundamentally challenge our assumptions about work and the relationship between people, organisations and performance and design new strategies for a different future.
@Hadas Wittenberg is a future of work enabler and founder of Adaptive Futures.
What is motivating one person to jump into a burning building to save someone else’s life? What is motivating an organisation to ignore the disruptor until it is too late? Or, what is motivating a country to open its borders to global influence?
I was reflecting on these questions for a while, particularly in the context of growth and the challenges people face when trying to achieve personal breakthroughs or organisational culture transformation. I assume that if we can understand and explain these motivations, we can direct our effort to have more, as related to the above examples, selflessness and innovation and less arrogance and decline.
In this post, Inspired by Richard Barrett theory, I present the cultural tipping point via a focus on a set of Breakthrough Values. I use this term in the context of organisational culture transformation. However, I believe the approach is also valid for individuals who want to achieve a breakthrough in their career.
Needs and Values explained
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is probably one of the most popular motivational theories in psychology. Maslow argued that humans are motivated by a hierarchy of needs, organised in five levels from the most basics to the highest. Humans tend to focus on the lower level needs before higher ones. The first four levels are described as Lack needs or External motivators. They drive motivation when they are unmet. While at the fifth level, needs are described as Growth needs or Intrinsic motivators. Where motivation increases the more the needs are fulfilled.
Values are intimately linked to our needs. Whatever we currently need, whatever we feel is important to us or what is unmet from our past is what we value. Richard Barrett argues that there are two types of values – positive values that promote growth and create internal cohesion and limiting values that are driven by fears and anxieties and can lead to stress and isolation. He also suggests that it is critical to maintaining a balanced spread of positive values to ensure both growth and grounding capabilities.
An updated model
Going back to the question “What is motivating an organisation to ignore the disruptor until it is too late?”. It might sound like a counter-intuitive question, as we usually think about motivation as a positive concept. However, the story of Kodak is a famous example. Kodak actually saw the future of digital cameras and that photos could be shared online. However, motivated to continue being the best and dominating the printing market they failed to see that photos shared online ARE the future market. What Kodak was missing might have been valuing courage to change direction and adapting to a totally new world. All humans and organisations are motivated to fulfil the Lack Needs. And while as humans we also have the desire to reach full potential, many of us get stuck, spending excessive effort in a space, where reputation and success are a common concern.
In a previous post, I discussed the fact that the dominating culture across the western world is a culture obsessed with success, defined as “I am great and you are not”. This culture lacks focus on core values that create growth. Latest trends in management consultancy advice are highlighting the need for organisations to adopt values like teamwork, creativity and purpose. However, the move from fulfilling lack needs to growth needs require a breakthrough step to overcome our implicit assumptions and fears.
I suggest that to have a breakthrough toward achieving full potential, organisations should reach a cultural tipping point by adopting and focusing on breakthrough values. Values like Courage, perseverance, accountability, continues learning, and adaptability that enables overcoming fears hence opening the opportunities for growth. These values combined with a balanced set of positive values addressing both Lack and Growth needs will allow organisations to achieve their potential while maintaining feet on the ground and offer stability at times of real crisis.
The below diagram describes the cultural tipping point as an updated version of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Nest steps for reaching a cultural tipping point
In order to get on the journey organisations can take the following steps:
- Understand the organisation’s actual core values and implicit assumptions using a validated framework or a model. Unfortunately, people are unaware of their culture until it is challenged, until they experience a new culture, or until it is made explicit through a framework or model.
- Acknowledge the implicit assumptions that are driving excessive focus on limiting values. Then, reframe to eliminate these from the organisation. Regardless what future culture leadership might want to create, reducing the negative effect of limiting values is critical.
- Prioritise focus on breakthrough values; define the set of behaviours that are demonstrated through these values; and, take the first step in making decisions based on these values.
- Once an organisation is able to understand how values, implicit assumptions and culture are all linked together to enable performance and embedded its set breakthrough values, it can move to embrace a future set of values for continues growth.
@Hadas Wittenberg is a Future of Work enabler and founder of Adaptive-Futures. Hadas helps organisations and individuals’ growth through reimagining work.
I don’t watch most “reality” shows. I often find that these programmes exploit human weaknesses as a way to make cheap entertainment. However, I take an exception with MasterChef (the Australian version). I love good food and appreciate the creativity, innovation and mastery that go into making a master chef dish. Even more than that, I am inspired by how the show is able to create a space for ordinary cooks to bring their whole selves into this experience. It is a space where everyone is given an equal opportunity to show their skills, learn and grow. It is also a space that defines winning when someone is able to combine their passion and ongoing learning with giving it all to be better than their last dish.
So on that very serious note, here is what I took from MasterChef that you might be to take out from the kitchen and into your work life.
Learning from the To be Chefs
1. The courage to experiment
The strong players of the show are the ones that have a passion and mastered some type of dishes and techniques and can use these strengths as often as possible. But the winners are the ones that also always take some risks and try new combinations or a new way of doing things. The great players know that taking a risk can be the difference between moving to the next phase or going into elimination.
2. Achieve growth by competing to be better than your last dish
The best players are the people who stay focus on their own dishes, learn from their own mistakes and push themselves further. It does not matter how good was your previous dish, you are always judged on your last dish. It is also interesting to see that when you play to outperform your own last dish, it is easy to show generosity toward others. Others being great, does not take away from your own amazing creations.
3. At the same time, be coachable and confident with your own abilities
The show has amazing coaches, people that stand near the competitors, push them almost to their breaking point, challenge them to think differently and never tell what or how to do things. The winners are the ones that listen, take on board what is relevant but are also able, at the same time, to stay focus on their original vision and own instincts.
4. The real winners emerge after the show ends
The winners of the show get a positive nudge into their career as chefs. But it seems that some of the other participants have equally taken the experience as an opportunity to propel their own passions.
Learning from the winning dishes
1. The Ingredients are the base for amazing dishes
The more variety and better quality these ingredients are the better chances you have to create multiple, unique and desirable dishes. The same ingredients can make multiple dishes, all taste and look different. It is critical though to know what combinations work and which will be a culinary disaster. Think about your individual knowledge, skills, abilities and style as the ingredients and the dishes as your unique multiple value propositions.
2. A vision for the final dish
Regardless if you are following a recipe, or creating something totally new, you have to have a vision of how the final dish is going to look and taste like. If you don’t, most likely you will lose too much time trying and failing, so you will run out of time to deliver any dish at all. When you offer your talents to deliver value, you have to be clear what it is that you are actually offering.
3. It’s a science and an art
While knowing the techniques and mastering the cooking is important, the key for the final result is testing and adjusting all the time. Your end results are only as good as your testing sense.
At work, it is not just your own talents and specific work that come into play, the organisation, the team and the customers are all impacting the end result. You have to strive for mastery but you equally need to have the ability to sense and adapt in real time.
4. Looks is important but the taste is the key
How the dish is plated is important because people eat with their eyes first. But it is not enough; if the taste is disappointing there won’t be a second spoon. Having a great CV, a polished pitch or rehearsed interview answers is important when first engaging but it is the true value you create that matter for a sustainable work future.
Hadas is a Future of Work Enabler
There have been many discussions about unconscious bias, however, we still have not found an effective way to actually remove or at least reduce bias in organisations and work cultures.
The truth is, unconscious bias is the way our brain works, maybe we should just accept it?
Step 1: Leverage first impression bias and the “similar to me” effect
We are all biased by preferring people who are similar to ourselves or who have shared interests and experiences. We also tend to rely too heavily on one trait (positive or negative) when making decisions.
When scanning through CVs I might prefer names that I can easily pronounce or people that are of the same gender and similar age. The problem is that first impression and what we then consider as similar has little to do with being successful at work. Imagine, If first I see the traits that are meaningful and good predictors of work success like our shared values, the style in which we prefer to work and our passions, there are much better chances that:
- we can actually connect based on better predictors of work success,
- I will be able to overcome other biases, discovered later, that might come from superficial differences like age, gender, ethnicity, certain abilities or disabilities, etc.
Step 2: Create “stereotyping” of talents and community of interests
Stereotyping is our tendency in guessing or making assumptions about behaviors that are often based on group identity. We as humans like to, want to and need to categorize the world into neat little groups. It is efficient, predictable, and makes us feel good.
Many diversity programmes actually emphasise people in groups identities that are non-relevant to the actual work. In doing that many organisations that are trying to increase awareness and reduce bias are actually encouraging the set-up of group identity. Once connecting with people in ways that are meaningful to achieve shared purpose and outcomes, the second step is to create, nurture and celebrate “stereotypes” of talents and community of interests. People can:
- be “stereotyped” into groups that are crossing other stereotypes of gender/age/ethnicity etc
- get away from structural grouping
- separate talents and interests from people hence a person can be “stereotyped” into multiple groups.
Step 3: Reward Confirmation Bias
Another common bias is our tendency to look for information that supports our existing beliefs, and reject data that challenges these. For that reason pressures to recruit to “quotas”, or obey certain policies sometimes increases our focus to justify our biased choices. Instead of using punishment to try and change human behaviors, we can, for example, reward people leaders for:
- Discovering similarities that are meaningful for achieving the shared purpose and outcomes.
- Reward them for discovering and growing certain “stereotyped” talents groups.
So instead of punishing for undesirable biases or trying to trick our unconscious bias with how we dress, shake hands, speak, or train our Artificial Intelligence, I suggest, we get over it. We start to adapt our unconscious bias by staging experiences that help us see beneath people’s surface on a deeper and more meaningful way.
@Hadas Wittenberg is a future of work enabler.
Bias – inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair. (Wikipedia)
Unconscious bias – refers to a bias that we are unaware of and which happens outside of our control. It happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment, and personal experiences. (Wikipedia)
There have been a lot of discussions about unconscious bias, however, we still did not find an effective way to actually remove or at least reduce bias in organisations and work cultures. Removing this bias becomes even harder if we believe, which I do, that most people want to do the right thing. Here are examples of attempts to resolve the issue and why they don’t seem to work:
Diversity and inclusion training
In the last 20 years, diversity and inclusion training programmes became the norm with most organisations. It is not clear if these programmes really work and some studies even found that sometimes these strategies actually increase unconscious bias. why-diversity-programs-fail
Use of Artificial Intelligence
We hope that the use of artificial intelligence and particularly machine learning can help remove unconscious bias from the hiring processes. After all, machines do not have feelings. The challenge is that machines learn through algorithms designed by humans with biases. For example the Events like a Google photo mechanism that mistakenly labeled an image of two friends as gorillas.
Treat the symptoms
An interesting research by the Talent Innovation Organisation measured the effect that perceived bias has on the employees and the costs for the organisation and suggests strategies to disrupt bias by changing the perception rather than removing it. The strategies are: diverse top leadership, inclusive management and connect diverse talent to sponsorship. While the research shows if applying these strategies the effects of bias can be reduced, these strategies are hard to implement if bias is there to start with.
The truth is Bias is the way our brain works, maybe we should just accept it?
Based on the latest PWC CEO survey, “New Zealand CEOs are being ‘kept awake at night’ as a nation-wide shortage of people with digital skills threatens local businesses”. The survey highlights that while the problem of talent crisis is felt globally, it perceived to be bigger in New Zealand. The focus is on what is called digital skills with jobs for data scientists, designers and programmers being particularly hard to fill. PWC mentions in their report that this issue of talent has been raised a few years ago and so far we are not seeing enough progress to solve it.
The talent crisis – origins
I believe that the talent crisis and the environmental crisis originated from the same fundamental values and beliefs of the western society that we are living in. Some of these beliefs are:
- Economic growth is the most important indicator of success – this is in many cases exclusive or at least dominating indicator for growth in the political, financial and businesses agendas. It was interesting and encouraging to read the New Zealand Treasury publication of the Living Standards Framework.
- Mass production and efficiency – the belief that these are the best ways to achieve abundance needed for human consumption. This fundamental belief drives our education system and management systems.
- Consumption – We are now obsessed with the notion that consuming goods is the best and in many cases the only way for happiness.
- Progress – the belief that has driven the industrial revolution that technology will solve all human problems and hence with technology innovation progress will continue forever. The climate changes are a good example to why we should view everything as complex and interdependent.
The talent crisis – possible ways forward
Climate changes and pollution are a clear symptom of the environmental crisis. It is now forcing most governments, financial institutions, scientists, and organisations to take actions. The talent crisis is not yet that visible. However assuming it caused by the same beliefs, I suggest we take a similar approach to address it. This approach has to go as deep as changing our beliefs:
- Take a holistic approach– Human talent is diverse and it brings value in many and sometimes unpredictable ways. I believe that in order to create the talents of the future we should consider redefine talents, how these are being applied and how we reward talents that are creating value in paid and non-paid jobs.
- Sustainable behavior – Organisations can approach talents in a way that improves people, community, and overall social performance as well as meet their own needs. For example: spending effort and time discovering already existing talents within an organisation before trying to replace or buy externally, sharing skills that are in short supply by creating and supporting true freelancer’s open market, considering and having clear strategies for an ongoing retirement of skills and the development of new ones.
- Self-management – enable an environment that allows people to grow and develop their own talents in their own unique way. Businesses and management should step away from trying to control how people enabled in this environment and allow more flexibility in applying their talents in unexpected and creative ways.
- Nurture diversity and interdependency – environment strategies emphasise the critical role that biodiversity plays in the earth overall health. In a similar way, organisations should focus on developing strategies that nurture the diversity and focus on enabling collaboration and interdependency
@Hadas Wittenberg is a future of work enabler