Sunday, February 1, 2009

Teach Business Basics to First-Time-Bosses by Agatha Gilmore


It seemed like a natural progression: Cheryl was an ace employee, a high potential, a top performer. When a management position opened up at XYZ Corp., Cheryl was promoted without a second thought. But the organization didn't consider that it was relying on Cheryl's personal success as a top performer to enable her skill as a successful manager. Further, many organizations make this same mistake.

A new survey by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found nearly one-third of employers don't teach business basics such as budgeting, time management and project management to first-time bosses. Another 26 percent don't offer training on diversity awareness.

"There are two [issues here]," said Mary Ann Downey, talent pillar director for i4cp. "One, for a lot of first-time managers, they're at the lowest level of the organization. They may not have budgeting authority yet. It may be that organizations don't feel that those are needed skills. [But] if you don't understand how the budgeting process works, and you're in a management potion, you're really at a disadvantage.

"On the time management and project management point, in lot of organizations, the folks that are promoted may not necessarily have the best people skills, supervisory skills, but they were top performers. They probably already had good time management and project management skills. That may be the reason why companies are not focusing on those items."

However, just because new bosses exhibit these skills doesn't mean they can teach them effectively, nor does it mean their personal styles will mesh with their new management roles.

"Style is such an important element of time management and project management: You may have a personal style that works for you, but is it going to work in a team environment?" Downey said.

What are rookie managers being taught? According to the i4cp survey, employers instruct new bosses to a high or very high extent on harassment (39 percent), coaching skills (40.9 percent) and performance management (47.6 percent).

While coaching skills are crucial for managers to learn and fall on the softer side of training, harassment and performance management training could be considered standard risk management on the part of the organization, with the purpose of avoiding conflicts in the workplace.

"[These areas] are procedural and so probably a little easier to teach in an in-class format," Downey explained.

The i4cp study also found that 41 percent of those promoted to a first-time manager position end up supervising a group of peers. Downey said this statistic reveals just one of the reasons why new bosses must be taught the business basics.

"There are two pieces of it. First, there are the personal relationships - how you may have interacted with each other on a peer level may not be appropriate any longer. The reverse side of that is how are the folks that you're now supervising going to accept your new authority?" she said.
"If you're a first-time manager and you don't have these skills, and there are no other interventions being done - either an on-boarding or an assimilation - then organizations are really at a risk of both setting the supervisor up for failure and having the team productivity go down. That's the big risk for organizations: burning out a potential star or risking their overall organization's productivity."

[About the Author: Agatha Gilmore is a senior editor for Talent Management magazine.]

Relocation: A Balancing Act by Saskia Meckman


In 2009, companies will be forced to juggle expatriates and their families worldwide, while balancing the decisions involved in finding and retaining globally competent employees.

When taking the pulse of the global relocation field, it is apparent that there is a lot to think about. Will companies around the world be able to find the ideal globally competent employee? Once found, what will it take to retain this employee? And finally, how have expatriate-family dynamics and needs changed from the classic model?

Balancing these three key issues is on the minds of HR executives worldwide today and will continue for a long time to come. The trends of a global talent shortage, the need to retain talent and the demand for work/life balance are the main factors that have a direct bearing on this "balancing act."

While the phrase the "War for Talent" continues to be overused, it is clear that this trend shows no sign of abating. Evidence of this is the beginning exodus of the baby-boomer generation from the workforce, mostly through retirement. The result is a growing need to improve employee satisfaction and this, ensure retention. This is particularly important for expatriates repatriating back "home" after an international assignment.

Currently, the global demand for skilled labor has exceeded the supply, resulting in shortages in many pockets of the world, according to news articles. For the past 20 years, the U.S. workforce has grown by 50 percent; however it is predicted to grow by only 3 percent over the next 20 years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. Demand in the United States continues to be high for skilled non-U.S. citizens (especially from India and China).

This year alone, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received more than 163,000 applications for just 65,000 H-1B visas, which were distributed within the first 24 hours. Debate over increasing the cap is ongoing. Since L-1 visas are not subject to a cap, non-U.S. employees are now entering with an "Intra-company Transferee Visa," whenever eligible. An additional advantage of this visa is that the accompanying spouse is allowed to work in the United States.

Across the Atlantic, the European Union will need 20 million skilled workers over the next two decades. They have a plan to make it easier for skilled foreign workers to get jobs in the E.U.'s 27 member states. The Blue Card is a combined residence permit and work visa that would allow holders and their families to live, work and travel anywhere within the European Union. If agreed upon by member governments, the proposal, introduced by the European Commission in 2007, will pass in 2009.

Currently, 55 percent of skilled non-U.S. citizens head for the United States and only 5 percent to the European Union. With the Blue Card, the European Union hopes to reduce this imbalance, which will be to the detriment of American employers.

According to GMAC Global Relocation Service's 2008 Global Relocation Trends Survey, the three emerging destinations for many expatriates are China, India and Russia -- countries with rapidly growing economies. These countries also happen to be the three most challenging locations for expatriates and their families to successfully complete assignments and for international-assignment-program managers to set up, according to the survey.

With 25 percent of international assignments now in emerging markets, this is no small challenge. With security issues, rising housing costs, insurance prices, natural disasters, education for kids, work permits and visa issues, the list of worries for expatriates goes on and on. Additionally, potential employees and their families are often reluctant to head to a part of the world they may have heard little about until recently.

How do HR executives balance the needs of the company with those of the potential expatriates employees and their families?

Often the secret ingredient, forgotten in most recipes, is the expatriate spouse. While discussions between the employee and company may happen months ahead of an upcoming international assignment, the spouse is often left out of the equation until the last minute or, more often than not, altogether. The employee and spouse may have spoken countless times about the possible assignment, yet the company may offer little to no support regarding the spouse's career or other needs.

For most companies, it is becoming increasingly hard to fill certain positions without providing comprehensive and lucrative compensation packages. Including career-support services and any other additional support for the spouse may make a difference in whether an employee accepts or declines an international assignment.

Retaining Talent

There is no arguing that the most valuable and sought after commodity in any company is talent. In order to attract and keep this talent, all aspects of a relocation package need to be appealing. The challenge then becomes, how do companies keep these packages frequently updated in order to offset the declining purchasing power of the dollar, while at the same time addressing the needs of the employees and their families?

According to Martin Foxwell, West Coast director of the New York-based consulting firm ORC Worldwide, "The implications for global and expatriate pay packages include a classic conflict: Expatriate pay packages are renowned for their high cost to the company -- often three or four times an employee's base salary.

On one hand, companies are continually challenged to reduce costs wherever they can, and expatriate packages are an obvious place to start. On the other hand, the fierce competition for the best talent is putting upward pressure on the cash, perquisites and benefits needed to incentivize potential expatriates [and their families] to undertake international assignments. This dilemma is a delicate balance and an extremely important strategic issue."

This statement should be given considerable thought in light of the fact that, in 2008, 58 percent of companies surveyed by GRTS said they were reducing expenses for international assignments in response to economic conditions.

Once companies have found talented employees, the main goal is to retain them. One way of doing this is by making sure that there is a job offer of equal or greater interest for them once they repatriate "home" or head off on another international assignment. Companies are often still losing their best talent by not taking advantage of the cultural understanding and global competence the employees acquired while on assignment.

Natalie Richter, principal of Natalie Richter and Associates states, "An organization's greatest resource is its globally competent employees. They enable companies to be nimble and respond quickly to changes in the international environment, which in turn makes them more globally competitive."

HR executives are crucial in providing an employee with a seamless international-assignment transition and ensuring that there is communication between home and host country.

As the war for talent continues, it is apparent that practices such as flexible hours, remote work, intercultural training, executive coaching and spousal-career services, are now essential. Even areas such as more effective use of virtual teams and greater utilization of communication alternatives such as instant messaging, voice over IP and Web conferences -- once regarded as optional -- are now crucial.

Companies that are spending more time and effort focusing on work/life balance as a strategy for talent management will be the winners of this war!

Work/Life Balance

How are HR executives going to address work/life balance issues, which are particularly challenging for expatriates on international assignments? In some cases, the "norm" is often for the employee to arrive months ahead of the rest of the family and then travel extensively throughout the assignment. It is no wonder that finding balance is imperative. This is particularly true when many expatriate families juggle the demands of needing to be in two or more places at the same time, while preparing for the final move to a new country.

One of the areas that creates great challenges for HR executives and companies, not to mention the expatriate families in question, is when the accompanying spouse or partner must give up his or her career. The dual-career issue continues to be one of the main reasons employees turn down international assignments. When families are accustomed to two working parents' salaries, it becomes very hard to scale down to one income, even if the expatriate-compensation package comes with additional perks and added benefits.

According to the GRTS, 54 percent of accompanying spouses were employed before their relocation. During the assignment, however, only 20 percent found employment. This dramatic drop may be due to a variety of factors. It is clear that these spouses have to be very creative in finding work that matches their skill set, as each country offers new challenges and opportunities.

This is particularly true for "serial expatriates," who move every few years. For some spouses, having a portable career -- a profession that they can "carry in a suitcase" and keep with them from one host country to the next -- is the ideal situation. A few lucky and strategic individuals are able to continue working with their same employers, either remotely or at an office in the host country.
For most spouses, however, the visa restrictions, time constraints and difficulties of finding a job make seeking meaningful, financially stable employment close to impossible. This may suit the needs of some families, when the spouse is eager to be a full-time parent, but for younger couples just starting their careers, this may cause unexpected stress. Finally, the needs of the single expatriate employee (and parent!) relocating alone must not be forgotten, as this population is slowly growing and the dynamics of the expatriate family are changing.

When looking at the demographics of the current expatriate population -- 50 percent are between the ages of 20 and 39, according to the GRTS -- the needs of Generations X and Y are becoming more apparent. These populations have an increasing interest in greater flexibility at work, more meaningful jobs, further professional freedom and ultimately more work/life balance. Their outlook on life has been shaped by, among other things, the Internet, information overload and overzealous parents. Many of their overworked parents spent most of their lives working for the same company and not as much time as they would have liked with their families. These new generations are ready to change that.

The classic model of an expatriate employee willing to work 75 or more hours per week with a demanding travel schedule is slowly shifting, as there is ample evidence of the stress caused by the work/life time crunch of international assignments. Companies are becoming more and more aware that family adjustment, partner resistance and children's education are the three most critical challenges faced by expatriates.

Since the inception of the GRTS 15 years ago, these same challenges have continued to be critical, so it should come as no surprise that family concerns, including dual-career issues, are the most common reasons potential expatriate employees and their families turn down international assignments.

Finding a balance for these work/life matters will be a challenge for HR executives as the changing generations will continue to affect the global workforce.

In order for companies to remain globally competitive and win the war for talent, they must be able to juggle expatriate family needs as well as company demands and economic hurdles in order to find and retain the ideal globally competent employee and be successful in this global market.

[About the Author: Saskia Meckman is founder of Soleil Intercultural and offers intercultural training and consulting to organizations with employees on global assignments. She has been working in the global relocation field since 1998, based out of New York, Boston, and currently Boca Raton, Fla. U.S.-born, with Ecuadorian and Dutch-Austrian-Danish parents, she grew up in France, Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands, and has traveled extensively around the world.]

The Training Industry in 2009: A Look Ahead by Cushing Anderson


Respondents to Chief Learning Officer magazine's Business Intelligence Board survey view the coming year with guarded optimism. Most of them acknowledge the threats posed by economic problems, but also see opportunities for improvement.

Training executives remain basically optimistic about the outlook for employee development in 2009, with 50 percent feeling more optimistic about 2009 compared to 2008. However, compared to the outlook for 2008, learning leaders are feeling less optimistic overall. About 25 percent are less optimistic regarding the coming year, whereas only 19 percent of respondents felt less optimistic about 2008 when asked last year.

The fact that a quarter of learning executives are feeling less optimistic shows a dramatic change in overall outlook. The reasons for dampened optimism come as no surprise: Sixty-seven percent of "less optimistic" respondents gave the troubled U.S. and global economies as the reason for their concerns. Participants cited cash-flow issues, credit problems and lower revenues due to the economic crisis as reasons why budget cuts in training programs are expected to follow in the coming year.

On the more optimistic side, there are a variety of reasons companies gave for an optimistic view of training and development in 2009. Many of these take a positive view of the economic situation, as well as challenges in hiring talent and the surge in boomer retirements.

With regard to the economic situation, one training executive expressed increased optimism due to a "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" mindset. "We all have to be more creative in troubled times like these," the respondent stated. Many training executives see opportunities for a higher utilization of employee development programs as they strive to hire and retain talent and retrain workers to replace retiring company leaders.

Additionally, companies are expecting positive developments in the role training plays in their companies. Ninety-five percent of learning executives expect that training will be more aligned with company business objectives, while 84 percent believe that the perception of training in their companies will be higher.

And finally, 78 percent report that the quality of their training offerings will improve next year.

Impact of LMS and Knowledge Management Continues to Increase

The impact of learning activities from 2008 to 2009 shows shifts in rankings, though leadership training and competencies remain the top two choices. Beyond these two, there are some noteworthy changes. Informal learning is up four spots, while measurement (fourth place in 2008) is no longer in the top 10. (It landed at 11 this year.)

On the other hand, sales training made an appearance in the top 10 for 2009, although it did not in 2008. Sales training has increased in importance in light of the economy. As one executive put it, "In the tight economy, the performance of our sales team is the company's top priority. We are refocusing much of our efforts to drive productivity in the sales teams."

Key activities of significant impact continue to be:

a) Leadership

Leadership development continues to be a hot-button issue as companies work to support corporate succession initiatives. Replacing key leaders in an organization has become more important in light of talent shortages and an aging workforce. Companies need a pool of employees from which to select leaders, and leadership training also is a way to retain valuable employees.

b) Competencies

Competencies have always been the backbone of training. Today, however, amid the shortage for talent, competencies have taken on greater significance. To address current and future vacancies, organizations are looking to competency models to identify skills gaps and develop the necessary skills internally.

c) Informal learning

Informal learning also has become a key activity and not only because of foreseeable economic hardships and formal training budgets cuts. Many companies see informal training as the model to aspire to as training becomes intrinsic to everyday interactions and work cultures. Companies see that most learning occurs informally and that action learning and collaboration are vital areas of a learning organization.

d) LMS

The LMS is potentially the single-most important learning technology investment for companies. It's up one spot from last year and four spots in terms of impact over the past two years. It is seen as "the infrastructure that drives learning," thus making training administration more efficient and reaching more people through e-learning and reusable, standard content. Companies also seem satisfied with their current LMSs: Only 32 percent reported they will be changing or acquiring a new LMS in 2009.

e) Knowledge management

Knowledge management also continues a steady upward trend, up three this year, and up six spots over the past two years. As knowledge management captures processes, skills and context that are lost when employees leave the company, it is becoming more important given the retirement surge of aging baby boomers and as the "war for talent" continues.

Outsourcing in 2009

Nearly all training strategies have an impact in some circumstances, and no training strategy is overwhelmingly ineffective. So readers should take the assertion that outsourcing will impact training least in 2009 with a grain of salt. In a time of increased outsourcing in many areas of business, this activity was cited by 10 percent of companies as the area with the least impact on training for 2009.

Part of the explanation for this showing is that only 5-10 percent of organizations outsource significant portions of their training organizations. This leaves 90-95 percent of organizations that will not see outsourcing as a meaningful activity.

In general, companies feel the loss of control in outsourced arrangements - particularly around content creation and delivery - disconnects training from the company's overall vision and business strategy.

There also exists a sentiment that outsourced providers lack some subject matter expertise and provide a lower level of service than internal training departments. Only a quarter of companies report they will be outsourcing more of their training activities in 2009.

Social Networking Requires More and Less Attention

When asked which topics should be given more attention by the training industry, the top two choices were knowledge management and informal learning. Given the high impact that these two activities have on training programs, this comes as no surprise. However, social networking was the third-place choice.

Conversely, when asked what topic is overhyped and should be given less attention by the training industry, wikis/blogs was the first choice, and social networking was second. An equal percentage of companies selected social networking as an item to be given more attention as those that selected it to be "dropped from the radar."

For those companies that would like more attention paid to social networking, appealing to a younger generation of employees is a key factor in its importance. This ties directly to concerns over hiring talent and grooming the next generation of leaders.

Social networking also is seen as another avenue for high-impact informal learning and one that should be managed proactively rather than haphazardly. Companies are not yet fully convinced of social networking's impact, but it's pervasive in our culture, and many companies feel it should not be ignored.

On the flip side, those companies that see social networking as a topic to be given less attention believes it has "no real value" and is a "time waster." These companies do not see social networking as an appropriate training medium. As a technology, it is not believed to be mature or structured enough to be effective in training.

Similar criticisms are aimed at wikis and blogs: The content is opinion based rather than factual, and oftentimes - especially for blogs - it is ineffective since the structure is loose and finding content is difficult.

Predictions for 2009

Much about the upcoming year is uncertain, given the global economic environment, but 2009 will likely be a challenging year. Challenges from hiring and retirements will increase the importance of the training function, but only 41 percent expect budget increases, so training departments will have to do more with less.

Overall, companies believe the outlook for the learning function is similar to industries overall: It will be difficult, but there will be positive developments in the way organizations leverage and align learning, use tools and refocus on providing value to the organization.

[About the Author: Cushing Anderson is the program director of learning services at IDC.]