Expert Interview Series: Tom Haak of the HR Trend Institute on the Evolution of HR

Tom Haak is the director of the HR Trend Institute. We recently asked him for his insight on how HR has evolved over the past three decades and what types of training are essential for those in the profession today. Here’s what Tom shared:

Can you talk about your background and interest in HR?

After I studied Experimental Psychology, I started my career in HR in 1982, with Philips Electronics. I have worked 30-plus years in HR, many years in HR executive positions in multinationals. The focus of my interests have always been in organizational development, talent management and top teams in organizations. With small teams I have always been able to have a visible impact in the organizations where I worked. Generally, I think the impact of HR could be lot higher!

Can you tell us about the mission behind the HR Trend Institute?

Our belief is that life in organizations can me a lot more fun, and that the impact of HR on organizations can be a lot higher, if the opportunities offered by current trends are used better. Our mission is to inspire HR professionals and others responsible for HR. We study current trends, and use our findings for inspiration, through writing, speaking and conduction workshops. We also like to work with students, as they are the future of HR.

How has HR evolved since you started your career?

Unfortunately, HR is evolving slowly. The long-term trend is from HR as a more administrative function to a business-focused profession. Dave Ulrich has done a lot of good work for the development of the profession, but there is also a downside. In the last years everybody wants the become an “HR Business Partner,” focusing on HR strategy and change management. Many HR professionals do not have the skills to do this well. Ninety percent of the HR work is HR operations, and there has not been enough focus on HR operations in the last years. To be successful in HR operations you need IT skills and skills comparable to what is needed in the hospitality business. By focusing too much on management, HR has also drifted away from the people in the organization. The last years you can hear a plea for HR to become more “human” again.

What is having the biggest impact on the profession today?

The opportunities created by technology have the biggest impact on the profession. Everything is digital today. The impact is twofold. Organizations are transforming and HR has to play an important role in these transformations. Secondly, by using HR Tech, HR can change its impact a lot. Many jobs will be automated in the coming years and that will create major issues. On the positive side, technology allows people to make better decisions. Man and machine is a very powerful combination. Recruitment and selection is an area where you see many promising developments.

What types of education/training should those pursuing HR today be sure to attain to be more marketable?

A solid foundation of methodology and statistics is important. People analytics is getting more important, and the HR professionals should be able the set up experiments and work with data in a clever way.

Consulting skills are very important. Can you ask the right questions? Can you listen? Do you have a real interest and understanding of the business? Having experience with modern working methods, such as design thinking, agile and lean. Agility is necessary, in order to be able to adapt and take advantage of fast changing situations. A broad business knowledge is an advantage, as HR more and more has to work in multidisciplinary teams.

What are the most useful resources for HR students and professionals to be following today?

There are many useful online resources. Deloitte with Bersin publish a lot of valuable information. Harvard Business Review is excellent. Our site is worthwhile to follow, and we also publish a Flipboard magazine: The Future of HR. Personally I get a lot of good information via various channels: Twitter (there are various HR focused lists), LinkedIn, Flipboard and also Pinterest.

What are the most important or exciting trends you’re following in HR today? Why do they interest you?

Recently, we published our annual overview with HR trends: 10 HR Trends for 2017. I already mentioned man-machine collaboration and the opportunities created by artificial intelligence. I like to mention three others here. As first one “consumerization,” a trend that is closely related to “the employee experience.” People are more and more expecting an experience at work that is comparable to the experience they have at home. As second one: “Performance Consulting.” Many organizations are redesigning their performance management process. They want faster feedback, less ratings and a process that is not so top-down. The danger is that we forget that feedback needs to be very detailed and actionable. Good people want to become better, and performance consulting is the practice to support people in this area. An important role for HR. The last trend I would like to mention here is the movement from the focus from individuals to teams and networks of teams. Traditionally, HR and the HR processes and instruments are often directed to individuals and less on teams let alone networks of teams. I expect and hope for a change here.

What HR innovations are you keeping your eye on?

There are many interesting innovations. Fast feedback tools, as provided by Impraise and TruQu. Clever people analytics tools, as Crunchrapps, that can provide you with surprising insights, using available data. Tools that help you, using artificial intelligence, to overcome unconscious bias is the workplace. Here Joonko is an interesting supplier. Real time employee mood measurement is also an area with many interesting developments.

How should HR departments be working to balance the technology they use to do their jobs and the need for a human touch?

Technology can not replace the human touch. The human touch should be widely spread in an organization, it is worrying if the human touch should come from HR. Technology can help HR to become more human. Talent identification has always been very biased, as the line of sight of management and HR is limited. With clever technology we are able to detect hidden talent, and this has great advantages for the people in the organization. Less bias and more transparency are very human.

Interested in pursuing a career in HR or business? View open courses.

Further Your Young Learner’s Knowledge at Tech It Out 2017

Central Connecticut State University is pleased to offer the Tech it Out 2017 summer youth program for students entering 3rd through 12th grades. The program offers week-long STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) courses from late June through August through which students can learn such diverse topics as robotics, graphic design, and sports broadcasting.

Courses run from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and include lunch, t-shirts, and goodie bags. Students can take a different course each week to experience different topics throughout the summer. A discount is offered to children of CCSU staff members and those signing up for three or more classes.

The courses are taught by experienced CCSU faculty and educators from other local area schools as well as experts in their respective fields and provide hands-on activities along with group and teamwork experience.

New this summer is a Robotic Exploratory Adventure for third and fourth graders that will see participants designing and building a robot with the VEX IQ robotics platform. No previous experience in robotics is expected or needed for this course.

Minecraft and 2D Modeling Through Game Design is another course that is sure to be popular. It teaches 4th through 12th graders, grouped in two different classes, how to create a number of different buildings, scenes and vehicles in the popular Minecraft game. Students will work together and individually and will be able to save their projects to use when they play Minecraft at home.

Another new course this year is a two-week offering for middle schoolers in 6th through 9th grades called Zero Robotics, which will be run in partnership with MIT and other organizations. Students will use computers to program SPHERES, a type of space satellite. The students will then test the functionality of their programs, and the winning SPHERES will compete on board the International Space Station. NASA astronauts will narrate the competition, which students will see on a live feed.

Students in 6th through 12th grades can also learn how to create music with computer software in another new course called Waveform Warriors: Electronic Music Production. The course is taught by a musician who has participated in remix competitions for groups like Usher and Counting Crows. His music has also been used by Microsoft, Sony, and Samsung.

Through these innovative courses taught by renowned faculty, students can learn new skills and develop existing ones to experience STEAM subjects in ways that would not be possible in most traditional classrooms.

Parents can rest assured that their children are not only well supervised, but are getting a top notch STEAM learning experience in a fun environment that will have them soaking up all kinds of knowledge and quite possibly not even realizing they are doing it. A summer experience like this could lead to greater confidence and academic success when they go back to school in the fall as well.

Check out Tech it Out’s information page to find out more about these exciting summer classes for kids. Join our mailing list to be kept in the loop about upcoming courses.

6 Reasons Strategic Planning Isn’t a One-Time Event

It’s important for businesses to engage in strategic planning regularly.

Strategic planning is an essential part of running a business, but teams often do their planning once and figure that’s all they need to do. A better way to engage in strategic planning is to do so on an ongoing basis, which is more effective than planning once and then never revisiting the plan to see how it’s working.

Here are some reasons why strategic planning should not be a one-time event.

1. Goals are easy to forget.

Using the once-and-done planning model may seem to make sense, but goals don’t necessarily stay on our minds automatically once the planning is finished. Reviewing your plan periodically throughout the planning period will keep those goals fresh in mind so you stay on track to meet them.

2. Measuring progress will help you make adjustments.

Planning isn’t much good without measuring your progress to see whether your goals are being met and how fast you are getting there. With multiple strategic planning sessions, you will be able to spend some time measuring your progress and evaluating how to move forward even more successfully.

3. Planning sessions facilitate communication.

If everyone is expected to work together to move the company forward, communication is required to make sure everyone is on the same page and is aware of the goals that have been set. Leaders involved in the planning have an important role in helping others understand the company goals and how each person can do their part to reach them.

4. Planning can fix problems before they cause damage.

When you continuously plan company strategy, problems and potential pitfalls begin to reveal themselves. When you are attuned to what the company is doing, you can see what’s happening very early on and course-correct before damage is done. At the very least, you can minimize the damage and get things going in the right direction again quickly.

5. Regular planning leads to positive change.

Even better than catching problems early, regular planning sessions increase the likelihood of making positive changes that can lead to high levels of growth and greater effectiveness for the company overall. Without considering what changes might need to be made, it’s fairly unlikely that leaders will be able to implement the changes that will be best for the company.

6. Planning keeps creativity flowing.

Strategic planning is a creative process, and regular strategy sessions will keep key leaders at their creative peak so that the best ideas can move forward and benefit the business or organization. Creativity was most likely responsible for most of the company’s success when it first started, and creativity can bring success in the future as well when it is nurtured.

CCSU’s Strategic Planning course emphasizes the importance of regular strategic planning sessions and teaches business leaders how to conduct effective planning sessions that lead to long term success for the company. View our open courses to see how you can keep learning and developing professionally.

Why Digital Marketing Matters for Your Business

Digital marketing may seem like a brand new way of advertising to those who have been in business a long time, but for brand new businesses, it is a way of life. As more and more consumers find direct market mail pieces annoying and intrusive, they look to the internet, including email, websites, and social media, to give them the information they need.

Digital marketing is less expensive, easier, and can even be more effective than direct mail, depending on how you do it. Some forms of digital marketing, like a website, do require a substantial financial investment unless you have the professional skills needed to do the work, but others, like social media pages and even some types of email marketing, only require time.

The Necessity of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is necessary for all companies today for one major reason: if you don’t have an online marketing plan, your competitors will attract those customers, and you won’t. Because most companies do have a web presence and market to customers digitally, and because most customers seek out products and services online, you will miss a major part of the current market if you don’t have a digital component to your marketing.

There are many other benefits to digital marketing in addition to holding onto market share, however. Most digital marketing software collects data about who responds to your ads, website, and emails, and you need to use that data to build a customer model so you can personalize your message.

Having a relevant, personalized message will allow you to reach out to customers where they are and offer them products they will want to buy, in real-time. Amazon and other companies do this by suggesting additional products whenever anyone searches their sites, and there are many tools available to make it possible for smaller companies to do the same thing with their customers.

Basics of Digital Marketing

A professional website. Consumers who search for a product in your area or to purchase online want to see a website that looks professional and has information about your company, products, and a way to contact you.

An email list. There are various ways to build an email list, from buying one that you think dovetails with your target market to offering opt-ins on your website and blog pages as well as when a customer makes a purchase. You don’t want to overwhelm consumers with emails, but having some regular email contact is a good way to keep your products and services in front of consumers so they don’t forget about you, as well as inform them about specials they may want to take advantage of.

A social media presence. You don’t have to try to have a page on all of the social media sites (there are many), but having some sort of social media presence is one of the best ways to interact with your customer base and spread the word about your company. Facebook and Twitter are the two biggest social media sites, but some businesses do well on the smaller niche sites too.

Learn more about digital marketing through CCSU continuing education courses.  Sign up for our Digital Marketing Certificate! View open courses to see all learning opportunities.

Expert Interview Series: Colin D. Ellis of The Conscious Project Leader

Colin Ellis is the author of The Conscious Project Leader who helps organizations around the world transform their cultures to deliver projects successfully every single time. We had a chance to speak with Colin about how project managers should focus less on the project itself and more on the people tasked with completing it.

Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to focus your career on project management?

Like most people in the late 1990s I fell into project management by chance. I was working for my local newspaper in Liverpool, UK, and just happened to be good at creating great teams. The computer systems that the newspaper group used weren’t Year 2000 compliant, so I spent 4 years travelling around the UK and leading the first true digital transformation projects.

I’m organized and self-aware, and I love connecting people. I love to make the complex simple and the challenges that projects bring. I think I’m fortunate in that I excelled at leadership and culture in a time when we didn’t really know how important these elements were to delivering projects successfully. In the 20 years since my first day, I’ve never stopped looking for better and smarter ways to get things delivered.

Since your website says that companies must “accept that the world has changed and that the people that lead projects… need to change too,” could you tell us what you mean by that?

When I first started work in 1987, my Dad told me that it wasn’t important to be liked; it was important to be respected. The managers that I had over my initial 10 years in employment were by and large table-thumping men who exercised “authority” to get things done. I still see a lot of this behavior in our profession.

Project management is and always will be a people business. It relies on strong relationships and leadership by example to create the kinds of environments where people can be the best versions of themselves.

Since the global financial crisis in 2008, we as a world are no longer tolerant of old-fashioned values such as greed and power. We want greater equality, diversity, and empathy. We want understanding, flexibility, and the opportunity to work with people with strong values who are kind but also still uphold a vision of success. We have a global network to give us insights into smarter ways of working and technology to put this all at our fingertips.

The project managers who don’t succeed have not yet caught up. They don’t know the new language that is being spoken or the behaviors they need to continually demonstrate. Consistent project success doesn’t come through following a process. It comes as a result of consistently good behaviors. Some organizations are still struggling to see this.

What are some of the biggest mistakes that novice project managers make?

There are two types of project managers: academic and practical. Academic project managers learn about good practice methods, techniques, how to capture information, and how to communicate to people. Practical project managers just do it. They don’t care too much for process or planning, trust their instincts, learn as they go, and try to never repeat the same mistake twice.

The biggest mistake project managers make is sticking to what they know best. Our profession is awash with certified professionals who don’t know how to amend their communication style or manage upwards, or on-the-job project managers who don’t know how to plan, manage risk, or maintain a schedule. To be successful, you need to put the time and energy into doing both consistently well.

Why is emotional intelligence an important trait for a project manager to have?

Projects are all about people. If you’re not able to be the best version of yourself at all times, you’ll never create an environment in which every member of the team (including yourself) can do their best work.

Gaining the buy-in of the team doesn’t happen by telling them to follow a process. It happens by having vision, being empathetic, actively listening, showing gratitude, looking for better ways to do things, and by making mistakes and not repeating them!

As Anthony Mersino said in his book Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers, “Learning emotional intelligence often includes unlearning what we were taught and breaking unhealthy habits. Project managers who master emotional intelligence will set themselves apart from other PMs.”

Do you have any suggestions for project managers on how to motivate team members who are producing subpar work or missing deadlines?

Firstly, in order to be able to motivate or performance manage someone effectively, you need to ensure that you clearly set expectations face-to-face (not by email) to begin with. Without this, team members will never fully understand what’s required of them and the importance of it to the project.

Secondly, you have to understand which communication style works best with the individual and talk to them in their preference, not yours. If they’re introverted, be slow and deliberate and produce evidence to support your case. If they’re an extrovert, then be more animated and show passion for the improvements required.

Thirdly, confirm the conversation with an email that clearly sets out what is required and when, as well as what behaviors you would like to see. If the work is still subpar, then alternate action must be taken by utilizing members of the HR department. Tolerating poor performance will undermine the leadership qualities of a project manager.

Finish this sentence: “When students are taking a project management course, the most important takeaways they should bring with them to their workplace are…”

“…that without trying, failing, and then trying again, you will never master the art of project leadership.”

What are the skills and qualities that will be the most valued and sought-after in the project managers of the future?

Categorically, the ability to lead and create great cultures. According to the Deloitte Human Capital Trends survey in 2016, leadership and culture are the two biggest challenges that organizations around the world face.

The best projects are a result of the person that leads it (leadership) or the environment they create (culture). Get those things right and continually evolve them, and you’ll have a job for life!

Need to keep up on the rapidly-changing world of project management? Join our mailing list today!

New Year, New Thinking: Establishing Learning Goals for 2017 and Beyond

Learning should be a lifelong pursuit, both for professional growth and for personal development. As 2017 gets underway, you can take the opportunity to set some goals for the rest of the year and onward, to govern what you want to learn in the future and what steps you plan to take.

Specific Goals Work Best

After an initial brainstorming period to get your ideas flowing, it’s time to get specific about what you want to learn and the steps you will take to accomplish your goals. If your goal is to learn conversational Spanish so you can communicate better with Spanish-speaking customers at your job, how will you accomplish that goal?

There are many different ways to accomplish a given goal. With the Spanish example, you could take a course, listen to audio lessons and videos online, or watch the Spanish news broadcast each day to try to pick up more words and build your vocabulary. The important thing is to decide which specific steps you will take because you aren’t likely to reach your goal without defining the steps that it will take to get there.

It’s also important to define each step and how you will know you have accomplished it. For the Spanish example, you might have a certain number of words you want to learn, or you may define accomplishment as being able to have a short conversation with your clients in Spanish.

Defining Your Timeline

If you don’t have a timeline or deadline for your goal, you are likely to put off taking action or not make your action items a priority. If you want to improve your conversational Spanish, you might set a timeline of learning 100 new words in a month or being able to understand and answer common customer questions in Spanish within three months.

Short- and Long-Term Goals

You don’t need to limit yourself to one goal at a time, but having too many goals may lead to paralysis in trying to decide which one to pursue. It’s best to choose a few important goals and not spread yourself too thin. You can strike a balance between short- and long-term goals in order to have a variety of items to work on.

Rewards Help You Stay Motivated

As you reach each of your short-term goals, it can be a good idea to reward yourself, even in a small way, to stay motivated. After learning 25 new Spanish words, you could treat yourself to dinner at your favorite Spanish restaurant or pastelillos from your favorite food truck. Rewards don’t have to cost money either, if you’re on a budget. You could treat yourself to a night binge-watching your favorite Netflix show or an hour to read that novel you’re having a hard time putting down.

CCSU offers continuing education courses that can help lifelong learners meet their goals for 2017 and beyond. Join our mailing list to see what we have to offer.