Frequently Asked Questions

Our FAQs provide strategic and practical insights to succeed in assessing issues, strategizing solutions and implementing change in Culture/DEI Shifts, Leadership Development, People Systems/HR & OD, Change Management and Executive & Leadership Retained Search. We’re here to help.

1. How can we best realign our organization to efficiently drive our new business strategy?

The main things to focus on are communications, culture and leadership.

  • A well thought-out communications plan is critical (see FAQ #2)
  • Assessment of the required elements of the new winning culture to support the strategy is just as important. It should be defined by the leadership team.  It then becomes HR’s responsibility to develop and implement the systems, policies, practices and tools to effect the desired culture.  We have found that explicit definition and examples of the desired behaviors much more rapidly result in the desired behavioral shift.  Simply stating concepts is no longer effective with managers or staff in most organizations.
  • Leadership will need to be engaged to identify, lead and model the expected behaviors that support the newly defined culture. This should be a facilitated dialogue led by an individual with organization development expertise and best practice knowledge and insights who is not a member of the leadership team.
  • Once strategy and culture are defined, a facilitated organization alignment initiative is strongly recommended. It will help to clear many obstacles to high performance and coalesce staff across the organization.  Dimensions of alignment should include but are not limited to: structure, people systems, workflows/processes, and information flows.  A member of our team, Kathy Molloy, co-designed and teaches the methodology which is taught at the Organization Design Forum every year.

2. To best manage stakeholder expectations during significant change, what’s important for us to sort out in advance?

  • Project Planning: A highly detailed project plan with participation and approval of all key stakeholders to assure all contingencies have been considered and that mid-project assessments and re-calibration are included.
  • Communications: When preparing for change, it is critically important to first develop a comprehensive stakeholder map of all who will be impacted by the change as well as on the periphery who will easily observe or hear about the change. Additionally, impacts and support needs for each stakeholder group should be identified   After which, a change-based communications strategy and plan must be developed including multi-mode delivery.  Content for each stakeholder cluster (you may have 2-3 clusters based on level of impact) should include Why, What, Expected Ultimate Outcomes, Who is leading and supporting the change, Who will be impacted by the change and how, When (timeline), How, Planned and Additional Available Support as well as who to contact with questions, Schedule of Planned Updates.
  • Leaders’ Championship: To inform and coalesce senior leaders on the business case, process, planned outcomes, potential challenges, organizational communications needs, their role as champions and key messaging.

3. How can we efficiently move toward a performance-based, accountable culture?

  • Our experience is that developing this type of culture requires a multi-pronged approach. First, develop your project plan as well as communications strategy and plan (see FAQ #2) and ensure you have leadership’s awareness and support.
  • Second, assess then modify or create and align integrated HR infrastructure that will be needed to support this type of culture (i.e., policies, job descriptions, performance management tools, rewards, training design, etc.).
  • Third, develop leadership championship then launch communications.
  • Fourth, conduct stakeholder training, starting with managers and then staff (preferably in partnership with business leaders/managers).
  • Assess progress, resistance and barriers at regular intervals and as needs arise; recalibrate, inform and interject solutions as needed. Report and celebrate successes.  Treat challenges as learning opportunities for all concerned.

4. Based on our strategy to accelerate innovation and speed to market as well as geographic reach, we’ve been trying to increase diversity but, our retention is not where it needs to be.  What can we do to build success?

  • First, see our Article: Diversity and Inclusion Success: Critical Factors for Effective and Rapid Transformation for some initial considerations.
  • Next, diagnose causes of turnover as well as current state of satisfaction in diverse populations. If an organization wide climate survey was recently conducted, were diversity demographics included and index cuts reported?  If so, review for indicators.  Focus groups and one on one interviews should be conducted to gather information as well as validate and explore any recent climate survey indications.  Compile, trend, and analyze results for preliminary causes and solutions.  If a recent survey was not already completed, one may be helpful.
  • Then, based on the findings, consider the following among other best practices:
    • Form one or more infinity groups that represent the diversity of your organization and especially those for which retention is more problematic. Include identifying leaders, developing charters, supporting resource needs and organizational communications.
    • Identify and revise potentially problematic HR infrastructure (See our Article: High Value, Low Investment: HR as Organizational Value AcceleratorSM )
    • Develop and conduct training to support needed change.
    • Assess progress every six (6) months and investigate
    • Engage objective, external expertise as needed and ensure transfer of knowledge and capability to internal champions for sustainable results.
  • Communicate and celebrate successes. Learn from and communicate learnings as you go…

5. How can we quickly break down our silos and develop effective management processes to effect collaboration, greater levels of customer service and increase employee performance?

This will require a culture change but, it can be achieved relatively quickly.

  • It starts with the business case for integration and collaboration as well as customer service and higher performance, helping stakeholders to see a better future state for themselves, personally as well as for the organization. Target results/goals and shared goals, objectives and shared accountabilities should be defined.
  • Expectations regarding management processes for communications, meetings, data sharing, etc. should be clarified.
  • HR systems, policies, practices and tools should be aligned, especially those of job descriptions, performance management, total rewards, etc.
  • Training should be designed and delivered for managers as well as staff including the business case, challenges the organization faces and how this shift will better support the organization, create greater collaboration and role enrichment, build individual as well as functional and organizational performance and build customer appreciation.
  • As with all other change, conduct progress checks and make course corrections as needed.

6. Our managers and staff are fatigued from doing more with less.  What can we do to re-energize our staff, improve performance and increase our bottom line?

While leaders bear ultimate responsibility for defining strategy and needed culture, HR has critical responsibility for informing strategy as well as creating the policies, systems and practices to support the desired culture and then managing culture.

  • First, make sure you know (for sure) what is specifically causing the fatigue… which resource losses are causing the most pain? If you need organization wide data, consider conducting an appreciative inquiry pulse check to validate your conclusions and assess reach of the issue(s).
  • Engage leaders in discussions about the data-based (objective and subjective) impacts of staff fatigue and explore possible resolution to 2-3 potential solutions.
  • Communicate what you understand, what can be done and what is additionally being considered for future options, based on success of initial remedies and upticks in performance over the course of an agreed period of time.
  • 2-3 months after rollout of initial solutions, follow-up with pulse-check or focus groups to assess progress and gather any additional insights; keep leaders well informed and be true to your word.
  • Seek objective, advisory expertise as needed for best practices, out-of-the box thinking, or interim staffing support.

7. We’re a rapidly growing organization.  How can we cost-effectively develop leadership to support our growth and succession?

Great question!  In rapid growth, senior leaders are typically dually focused on strategy and operations.  Mid-managers and leaders are working incredibly hard to assure productivity, tend to feel caught in the middle and isolated as well as oftentimes, ‘out of the loop’ from senior leaders’ thinking and plans.  It is this group that needs to be engaged and developed for this purpose.  As proven HR & OD integrated systems thinkers, we suggest you consider the following:

  • Create a comprehensive development plan including diverse learning modes of large group, 10-12 person learning cohort group and needed project work for guided/coached action-learning. Weigh the appropriateness of conducting a validated Leadership Self-Assessment to provide initial insights to participants, coupled with group as well as individual feedback and coaching.
  • Design and develop curricula that will inform and engage this group while building leadership acumen (e.g. situational leadership, conflict management and communication, negotiation, presentation and team building/leadership skills and the like. Look to senior leaders to validate the curricula as well as participate in the delivery to build connection, insights and trust.  Measure, assess and report participant evaluative feedback; modify as needed.
  • Develop and launch the communications strategy and plan.
  • Identify ongoing opportunities for collaboration and practice of new skills across this group as well as up and down the organization.
  • If you lack time or expertise for this undertaking, resource trusted external support for assistance and transfer of knowledge and capability for internally-driven sustainability and reasonable cost.

8. How can we develop HR into a more effective business function that is relied upon for improving results?

  • First, the organization needs to assess what it specifically needs HR to deliver to be successful. In this work, it is important to educate leaders on the potential for HR and take into consideration services that HR does not currently provide to the organization.
  • Then, the HR function (structure, roles, systems, policies and practices) needs to be assessed for its competencies and capabilities against that which is needed for desired results. Metrics should be created for short and long term attainment, to provide impetus to continuous improvement in HR operations.
  • Based upon the gap, a variety of strategies and methodologies may be recommended/required (e.g. structure and infrastructure redesign, modification and/or integration as well as training and development). You may want to read our Article “High Value, Low Investment: HR as Organizational Value AcceleratorSMwhich will provide some best practice insights and ideas for how to transform the HR function.  It is an ongoing initiative that will continuing effort.  The duration will depend upon the extent and urgency of the gap analysis.  Identify opportunities to streamline and scale transactional operations as well as those to outsource for cost-effective value.  Look for ways to develop and leverage existing HR talent to build HR’s capacity and value to the organization.
  • Communicate… communicate… communicate to leaders, HR and staff about why HR is changing, the expectations, what it will do for the staff, managers and organization as well as for the HR team. Provide progress updates.  Engage in multi-functional teams where appropriate.  And, call for help if and when you need it.

9. In the midst of a tightened labor market and declining operating budget, how can we recruit and retain the talent we need?

First, identify the specific reasons why you have turnover and have difficulty in recruiting the right talent.  While it’s not unusual to initially presume it is salary or benefits based, the ‘glue’ of the organization is your hiring managers.  And, we know from decades of climate surveys that given reasonable correlation to market-competitive salaries and benefits, employees who feel ‘connected’ with their managers will greatly hesitate to leave.  To ensure you’re creating a data-driven strategy:

  • Exit Interviews and Retention Surveys: If you don’t have a practice of consistently conducting exit interviews, start immediately.  If you don’t have the data, reach out (phone calls are best, surveys are weaker alternative with significantly less data likely) to former employees who have left your organization in the last 6-12 months to inquire why they left and what the organization can do to enhance the workplace.  Retention surveys assess what staff appreciate about the organization and workplace, what needs improvement and the level of employee engagement.
  • If compensation is a primary issue, quickly engage in a market-competitive study and identify areas where your salaries are below the 25th percentile as well as below the 50th percentile of the salary ranges for benchmarked jobs, especially for fully competent staff. Compile the data to substantiate your position and cost out remedial actions… some of which may be immediate and some over time.  Make recommendations to your leadership team for support in effecting salary modifications with supportive data.  Where you can effect modification, inform the hiring manager(s) and employee(s).  Organizationally, communicate your summary findings of market-competitiveness, actions and plans.
  • When benefits are a primary issue, make sure you know exactly which benefits are at issue. Do you currently have benefits that employees care little about where the investment can be better attributed to a more meaningful benefit?  Consult with your benefits brokers, other benefits experts and other non-competitive HR leaders you know for their insights and recommendations for negligible cost improvements.
  • If leadership or managerial communications are at issue, identify underlying issues… e.g. process, communications, technology, specific unfulfilled resource needs, etc. Explore suspected causes with hiring managers for reasons why.  Bob Fricchione on our team uses ‘the 5 Whys” – it’s an easy and effective methodology to get to the heart of the matter.   Engage leaders in developing solutions.  Facilitate appropriate training or forums to break down barriers, create common understandings and practices and build cohesion across, up and down the organization.
  • Regularly monitor and report progress. Strategize additional support as needed.  Monitor market conditions and internal sentiments.

10. We need to streamline our HR operations, improving efficiency and productivity while eliminating paperwork, manual processes and duplicative data entry.  What’s a cost-effective method we could consider?

  • First, start by developing detailed ‘AS IS’ process maps for each process you need to address. Seek out an internal expert in Operations or IT or resource an external consultant.  Each process map may take 2-4 hours to complete depending upon the complexity of the process, number of roles and departments involved, etc.  It’s critical that all staff involved in the process are invited to participate and understand the business case for this work (See FAQ #2).  To assure ongoing operation, you may need to do this in 2 or more cohorts.  The individual leading this work should be experienced in facilitating process mapping and redesign.  Once completed, send the AS IS map to all relevant incumbents for validation/modification and consideration of what can be changed to create the desired outcomes.
  • Facilitate a ‘TO BE’ process map for each process, engaging each individual to think ‘out of the box.’ Explore what other organizations have done or are doing.
  • Once you have the ‘TO BE” map, assemble a project team, create a detailed project plan, specify target outcomes and identify resource needs. Is this fundable within your budget or will you require additional resources?  What additional stakeholders may be needed (e.g. IT, Finance, etc.).  Will additional interim staffing be required to support the changes needed or are there internal resources you might be able to tap?
  • Consult with leaders for awareness raising, approval and championship. Develop and launch an organizational communications strategy and plan.
  • Engage end users in testing and rollout planning.
  • As with any other major change process, continually measure and communicate progress and outcomes. Remain accessible and plan for the unexpected.  Recalibrate and modify as needed.  Ultimately, celebrate and communicate successes and learnings for future initiatives and knowledge sharing.

11. How do I know if a leader can be coached successfully? What can I do to better predict that our investment will result in a ROI?

The most important attribute that determines whether a leader is going to benefit from coaching is their own learning mindset – their orientation to continually learning and growing. The environment can enhance this mindset. An International Coaching Federation study with clients found notable increases in productivity and team engagement with 86% of companies having made back at least their investment in coaching. Other sources indicate a multiple return of the original investment.

These are some positive indicators of a more likely successful coaching outcome:

  • The context of the coaching – is it in response to the leader seeing an opportunity and a personal readiness to grow further; is it related to the leader wanting to address some feedback they have received; or is it required of them in a way that they do this begrudgingly? If the executive is willing to alter certain behaviors and approaches in the way they interact with others and allocate the time it takes to build new and productive habits, you have a high likelihood of success.
  • The leader proactively seeks feedback from others at all levels in the organization.
  • The leader’s response to feedback is oriented more toward inquisitiveness rather than defensiveness.
  • The leader engages in outside-the-norm thinking and learning on a regular basis.