XP Health Co-founders – James Wong and Antonio Moraes – in Work Arts Interview

In this Work Arts interview, you’ll hear from the co-founders of XP Health, James Wong (CTO) and Antonio Moraes (CEO), on how the inefficient service-value chain in optical healthcare is ripe for disruption and how they are bringing deep technology and vertical integration to deliver significant value and an improved employee experience to their customers. This creative company – named to Fast Company’s Annual List of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2021 – has the ability to innovate quickly and provide a value proposition and customer experience that has won the business of organizations well known as employee experience leaders including Zoom, Docusign, Sequoia Consulting, Twilio and Chegg.

I’ve had the opportunity to look under the hood at the product and how they go-to-market in 2020 and 2021. XP Health will soon be on the radar of every benefits team, broker and executive looking to improve their employee experience. James and Antonio share how their business model made a significant pivot to accelerate growth through the pandemic as well as their origin stories and vision for XP Health.

Arts We Like is a series of posts spotlighting great ideas, products and partners that we share to help enable remarkable performance through more effective and engaged organizations. Contact Us about how to deploy these solutions as a part of a broader HR Strategy or engagements to develop your organization, capabilities and talent.

Jan Emerton in Work Arts Interview

In late May, I reconnected with my long-time colleague and esteemed collaborator, Jan Emerton of WWConsulting, for a timely talk about our shared experiences developing leaders and executive teams in global corporations and how we can apply what we know about delivering impactful off-site experiences to deliver more effective on-site experiences with remote and hybrid work as the norms going forward.

This topic of how we work and how we gather moving forward is quite polarized presently. In the past weeks, we have seen open letters from prominent company employees articulating their requirements of management, alongside other companies appealing to talent with extensive flexibility. Some voices are appealing to ambitious talent to not be naive – get back to the office as soon as possible to optimize your progression. A less prescriptive, but thought provoking stand out for me personally has been Priya Parker. In interview with Brene Brown – How to Return and Why it Matters she shares some sobering questions:

Are we racing back without asking what we have learned about our work and our teams?

We have this opportunity to broaden reach for talent and to achieve great diversity, yet the past year has had a sizable disparate impact on women and parents.

What have we learned that we want to carry forward?

Jan Emerton is an expert facilitator of international groups, skilled in delivering with empathy, clarity and impact. Jan has deep experience in cross- cultural differences and their implications in the field of communication in international business. She has wide experience in helping groups of executives from different nationalities, to understand cultural differences and to engage diverse groups in learning experiences. She has worked extensively in Europe and North America, and delivers programs in fluent French and English and operational Swedish and Spanish.

Arts We Like is a series of posts spotlighting great ideas, products and partners that we share to help enable remarkable performance through more effective and engaged organizations. Contact Us about how to deploy these solutions as a part of a broader HR Strategy or engagements to develop your organization, capabilities and talent.

MeBeBot Founder – Beth White – in Work Arts Interview

When communicating and delivering foundational information and services to your organization lag the rate of decision making and change, It’s like a latency tax that constrains performance and frustrates your team.

“…every business must be world class at all forms of synchronous and asynchronous communications, to sustain culture across the organization.”

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO – The Hybrid Work Paradox

HR, IT and other functional leaders are working to transform their service delivery models to improve employee experience, performance and cost. While many have mature Shared Service Center operations in Best Cost Countries (BCC), these approaches are being challenged with accelerating labor cost inflation, labor scarcity and turnover.

I was recently introduced to MeBeBot and managed to sit down with Founder and Chief Bot, Beth White, to talk about how MeBeBot brings innovative options that deliver many of the benefits of BCC Shared Service approaches while also improving employee experience and cost through technology integrated into Slack and Microsoft Teams.

If you are considering a work enablement strategy to improve the quality, delivery and cost of your functional service delivery, MeBeBot may fit nicely as an investment in automation for highly routinized tasks that do not require significant collaboration. This can strengthen your employee experience, add capacity without adding headcount, and as Beth states, “this is about job elevation.”

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Boston Consulting Group recently published “The How-to of Hybrid Work”

Arts We Like is a series of posts spotlighting great ideas, products and partners that we share to help enable remarkable performance through more effective and engaged organizations. Contact Us about how to deploy these solutions as a part of a broader HR Strategy or engagements to develop your organization, capabilities and talent.

Form Follows Function

It’s common to hear us say things that those we admire say. We adopt their ideas over time. You’ll hear me repeat what those I admire say – “there’s nothing so practical as a good theory; good theory in service to a functional outcome.” It is a core value – Form Follows Function.

Since my early teens, I have embraced the Patagonia brand, their “cleanest line” design ethos and generally consider myself a fan – a Patagoniac. Beyond the best products for doing my favorite things, the brand engaged me with their technical marketing, product differentiation and influenced my thinking as a steward and as a designer. In 2003, I started my first business offering learning and performance consulting as form by function design & consulting. I have learned to make this plain in practice over years, and continue to seek the cleanest line, pursuing the elegant, simplest functional solution.

I was recently invited to help a group of HR Business Partners and their leaders level-up some of their talent practices. It’s a profoundly committed group of people who give their lives to “missions.” When making an effort to design a process or practice, it’s helpful to borrow some thinking and skills from practical problem solving.

In problem solving, the logic that to agree on solutions, we must first agree on the problem is accepted; to identify best solutions, we must understand the functional “job to be done.” I asked the group, when you plan missions, do your missions look like this (referencing image above)? Or, in order to be successful, must you first choose the mission? The same is true of your management and talent practices.

Where organizations go wrong is that they fail to balance complexity with value as they build these processes… as each additional element is added, evaluate the trade-off between the complexity it brings to the overall process and the impact it will have on the original business objective.

Effron & Ort, One Page Talent Management, 2010, p. 4-5.

For example, you may design a succession process with the purpose of lowering risk to business continuity or you may desire to build a culture of leadership stewardship and engagement. You may need both – but they will not have the same priority and time horizon. These choices will yield different best solutions. You may be using benchmarking as the basis for what a mature process will look like. Be careful that you don’t make it your plan to effectively deliver on day 1 what your “benchmark” comparison companies achieved – in a context different than yours – through a series of efforts over years by a learning and improvement loop.

You may design a performance management process with an interest to better align resources to priorities in deploying strategy for execution. You may desire review discussions to drive meaningful development plans. You may be laying the ground work to differentiate rewards, reinforcing a performance culture. Again, in what priority order and timing.

It’s normally easiest to start with your top business objectives. In light of these, prioritizing talent practices may be clearer. ALL of the value of talent practice work will come from successful implementation and adoption by a set of stakeholders. Simplicity and clarity in the priority jobs to be done and the benefits for each stakeholder will improve your chances of achieving a productive outcome. Focus, implement, improve, repeat.

Here is a simple example of an interview I originally developed early in my career that has served me and others well in engaging groups of stakeholders to improve talent practices. Even if the solution seems obvious to you, create the pull for intervention in your organization through a small effort to engage your stakeholders to build ownership.

What are your top lessons learned from building talent practices?

How do you engage your customers to build ownership?

The Corporate Artist – Marcus John Henry Brown in Interview

When you choose to brand as Work Arts, you search to see what the world finds when they – hopefully – seek you out in the future. The most interesting thing I found is a British Performance Artist, based in Munich, named Marcus John Henry Brown who publishes amazing media worthy of being shared. He describes his work in a film titled Red Pill Blue Pill as “Lighthearted mixed-media nightmares, that will not be seen in galleries. Stories of the future… impact that you and I are having on the future.”

The video above is part three from a four video series that Marcus published titled the Corporate Artist Series, where he presents working as a corporate artist as way to defend your soul and your workplace from the “Corporate Saboteur” (including the mythical Klaus-Dieter from procurement).

Be frustrated less and thwart saboteurs

In the series, he reveals that while this might seem crazy, it lines up with what is sacred at Amazon (I asked about the connection. He knows Amazon… his wife is a leader there).

Marcus shares some simple tips and tricks to take a first step as a corporate artist:

  1. Have a curiosity book – find out something new everyday, write it down, to help you value ideas
  2. Take a photograph everyday – it will make you look harder at the world around you, capturing the world a bit more
  3. Go for walks
  4. Create a body of work – order and structure your work – regard it as art
  5. Work hard at understanding why the world works how the world works

I contacted Marcus and asked to have a call with him to talk about his work. He accepted. The discussion was fantastic.

Summarizing time with Marcus without video didn’t seem right…I decided to be adventurous. With a recorded Zoom call, I downloaded iMovie and share with you my very first video. From a very generous 90 minute discussion, I present 11 minutes of Marcus John Henry Brown in interview. Be sure to watch to the end where Marcus shares insights from his Speakery work (5:20) and readings from his clever, provocative and entertaining poem A Wicked Pack of Cards (7:25).

Thank you Marcus!

Onboarding – Transition Agenda for Executives

Entering a new organization in a senior position can feel like the proverbial “dog that caught the car.” This is a post for leaders in transition by a leader in transition, sharing in hopes of making your move better for you and those depending on you.

You’ve prepared and pursued a consequential opportunity that has some hope and promise. You’ve likely left a position of strength, a context you understood, a reputation, and a team of people. Now, amidst the congratulations and feelings of achievement, you must make the transition effectively for your vision to become a reality. Like your past successes, your future success will be constructed upon not only what you bring to the party, but also upon your understanding of the context, your ability to earn trust and influence in the relationships you form, and the choices you make about priorities and how to expend resources. While evidence is mixed on whether it is rational to evaluate new leaders by performance in the first 90 to 100 days – clearly it varies by role – it is clear that transitions into positions of significance carry expectations that new leaders must acknowledge. It is also clear that your actions – or lack there of – impact your team and other stakeholders from day 1.

I’m in a period of transition myself. After 8 years of progressive leadership responsibility with an organization, leading talent and HR, I’m in transition from a place of being well established to what’s next. While I’ve planned and contributed to the onboarding of many leaders joining the organizations in which I led, a recent experience provided additional insight into how consequential transitions can be. I was asked to present how I plan to approach onboarding at the final stage of a selection process for a CHRO position for a firm that was: (1) planning a large acquisition, (2) working through a previous merger that occurred before the on-set of the C19 pandemic, and (3) joining a very impressive international team who are committed to delivering a challenging plan. The opportunity didn’t materialize in the end as the acquisition wasn’t successful, but the work that I put into preparing was very well received and has been valuable in several forums where I have shared it as an example. I hope the underlying approach will be helpful to you.

When planning to onboard a new team member into an organization, there are many things that the organization will (or should) provide and likely has owners for (e.g., INFOSEC, travel profiles, electronics and systems access). There are areas of orientation that process owners and hiring managers within organizations are accustomed to brief and transition leaders into (e.g., company culture and history, policies / processes / tools). However, the transition agenda and “story arc” priorities for a leader’s appointment must be owned by the leader in transition. It is you who will be judged by the choices made in this period. It is you communicating with the first data points of your time in role to the stakeholders you serve.

In preparing to present my onboarding proposal and transition plan, I revisited the resources in my library and did some research for examples and templates, finding many helpful inputs (see below). I did not find a simple synthesis that I felt comfortable presenting to a selection committee, so I made one. In the end, the core came together in three steps / views for me.

  1. Objectives for the transition period. What do you want for yourself and your stakeholders in this period to form a foundation for your tenure?

2. Break down the transition period into addressable parts, what objectives will you prioritize in each period? What will you focus on to know, do and value and in what sequence? What choices / decisions do you plan to make and in what timing (to set and manage expectations)?

For step 2, having a view on the business calendar to understand key milestones in the planning cycle (e.g., budgeting, talent review, strategy and board reviews) along with the status of key projects / decision points is critical.

3. Plan activities to deliver on the planned commitments and achieve the objectives set in steps 1 & 2. This is where you commit time on calendars and enlist others into the agenda.

Plans are a starting point for actions. They will change. By having this foundational work prepared, you will be able to enlist available resources and activities in service to your objectives. You will have clarity on your priorities. You are prepared to show great respect to the team you will lead and demonstrate your commitment to delivering for your stakeholders.

Add to the conversation – what can you share to help those of us in transition? What have you experienced that has made a significant difference?

Helpful Resources:

Why the First 100 Days Really Matters – M.D. Watkins, HBR, 2009

It Really Isn’t About 100 days – McKinsey Organization Blog, 2017

The First 100 Days of Leadership – xquadrant.com

Advice for CHROs: Architect Your Transition into Your New Role – Russell Reynolds Associates Whitepaper

The First 90 Days – M.D. Watkins, 2013

You, Me and Your Top Three Podcast Interview

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I recently had the chance to be interviewed for an episode on the You, Me, and Your Top Three podcast by CGS Advisors CEO, Gregg Garrett. We talk about transformation techniques and discuss the major disruptions taking over the HR and mobility industries.

“Brandon’s ‘Top Three’ gives us a glimpse into the origins of his “do something” attitude  – from his dad who instilled his inner drive, to his church community who helped him keep grounded in the ‘why’, to his c-level coworkers who let him fill the whitespace that he desperately needed. And you have to hear what Brandon has to say about how you have to learn to lean into relationships to drive forward and to lead.”

ChangeNerd Community Future of Work Podcast – How to Connect HR to Business Results

 

I was recently interviewed by Anil Saxena from the ChangeNerd Community Future of Work podcast to discuss ways to connect HR to business results.  Throughout the conversation we discuss the value of understanding the business and pain-points, understanding your customers and the value proposition HR needs to bring the business. 

For more information on the ChangeNerd Community visit http://www.changenerd.com.

The Rest of the Meeting

pexels-photo-260689.jpegFor many of us, being invited to contribute more broadly to leading a business, at times beyond our domain expertise, is the greatest compliment we can receive in our work. I lead a global function within an organization and contribute to several cross-functional leadership teams that manage the business. I work with a team of others that do the same – lead a part and contribute to the whole. What this typically equates to is that in a given 2-hour team meeting, 10 minutes will be planned for review of the KPIs, updates and decisions that need to be taken for my part. It is important to be well prepared to effectively manage your part of the agenda, but it’s been my experience that this time is usually cut in half through the normal course of the meeting. Or, if you’re allocated more time, it’s not because it’s going really well. The most effective colleagues I have worked with over the years adapt to accomplish their objectives AND actively contribute to the rest of the meeting.

Being able to accomplish your objectives in this normal course of business should be anticipated and is a team member’s responsibility. If it’s our meeting then we are accountable for the whole agenda. How we engage in the rest of the meeting can be analogous to how we operate within the organization. We can just show up, we can only focus on our tasks and lament when our agenda isn’t granted priority over others, or we can view ourselves as a member of the team accountable for the whole agenda and make a difference in the rest of the meeting. Having the perspective and preparation to succeed in the rest of the meeting can be developed in both process and content.

To be effective in the process, we have to develop our perspective and skills. Our perspective (i.e., attitudes or paradigm) on the team, our role on the team and our individual and shared objectives informs what we endeavor to do. We also have to be skilled in our preparation and interactions to show up on the job beyond intentions.

Here are a few resources I’ve found helpful:

As we learn the various facets of the work of the team and the relationships and dependencies that exist between them, the content (i.e., business acumen) of the team’s work can be the most daunting gap to bridge. When transitioning to a new role, the content is new and you will have a lot of questions. One example to illustrate this is in how a company manages finished goods inventory. In order to contribute to the rest of the meeting for a team that has to manage finished goods inventory effectively, the questions you have to understand include:

  • Why is it important? What happens if we have too much? What happens if we have too little?
  • Where does it come from? Is it sourced or made internally? What are the lead-times to receive more? What is the capacity of the supplying producer?
  • What causes or triggers it to be sourced?
  • How do we pay for it? How do we get paid for it?
  • If we have too much and need to reduce, do we have the right commercial team to increase consumption and what does that do to our production workforce and for how long?
  • If we have too little, do we have the right talent in the right quantity to ramp up?

Beyond the perspective and skills to effectively contribute to the rest of the meeting, we need to understand the content of the meeting.  Curiosity is the key. Do not believe enduring ignorance will go unnoticed. By noting what you do not understand to research and seek mentoring from your colleagues to better understand their part of the business, you can both improve your knowledge and build your relationships.

It’s a choice. You can fixate on your part of the agenda and hope the space you’re given fulfills your expectations or you can take accountability to contribute to the rest of the meeting and make a difference.

Is Employee Experience Talent Management’s Ziggy Stardust?

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photo credit: revolveribiza

I recently came across an interesting article touting the death of Talent Management. The concise introduction to the growing focus on Employee Experience was thought provoking. Unlike the attention seeking headlines about performance management being dead we too often read of these days, I think the shift to Employee Experience is a legitimate and productive application of human-centered design to employment.

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Today, the demand for skilled talent outpaces the supply of capable employees in a growing number of areas. Many of the terms of the employment contract desired by job seekers have also changed or at least have become much more variable (e.g., by generation). Some organizations have shown the agility to respond to this consumerization of employment, while many others, particularly slow changing organizations in industrial and highly regulated industries, are struggling to accept that the change is even necessary.

In 2014, HBR printed Ram Charan‘s proposal that it’s time to split HR into two groups – HR Administration (HR-A) and HR Leadership & Organization (HR-LO) with HR-A reporting to the CFO and HR-LO reporting to the CEO to focus on improving the people capabilities of the business. Dave Ulrich is known globally for helping the HR profession develop the capabilities and structures needed by their changing organizations and environments. While few argue that the field of Human Resources is changing and requiring innovation to compete, the reality is that making the right changes fast enough is difficult.

Ziggy Stardust was a short-lived persona adopted by David Bowie that allowed him to explore, then taboo, topics in his art. As Ziggy, he was able to venture into territory where David would never have been heard. Similarly, Employee Experience is an outcome to focus on much more accessible than many of the topics organizations have to face to consistently produce great employee experiences and compete for talent. Employee Experience has the potential to enable successful changes aligned to a common interest. Much like focusing your operations on value streams or your marketing and technology teams on user experience (UX), integrated strategies to optimize Employee Experience could enable organizations to make bold moves where current functional strategies such as Talent Acquisition, Talent Development, Talent Management, Total Rewards, etc. will fall short.

Employee Experience has the potential to be what Edgar Schein calls a cultural island. To overcome the subcultural issues that he credits as the real problem in many organizations hindering their ability to make needed changes. A cultural island is a happening where the norms, rules, interests and virtues of a culture can be suspended to try something new because the environment is exceptional enough to allow for it.

I have begun to think about this notion of cultural islands. Where can you actually get multicultural units into a talking relationship with each other so that they can begin to explore their common ground? It is not going to happen in the daily work scene. I think that we have to create cultural islands to allow that kind of communication to occur.  ~ Edgar Schein

Talent Management is not dead. To the contrary, there is a deficit of competent expertise available to help organizations grow and develop. Employee Experience is a useful concept to most organizations that can help overcome current circumstances and the energy that goes into keeping your organization as it is. Even if, like Ziggy Stardust, the useful life of Employee Experience is short, it has the potential to make a significant difference mobilizing management teams in alignment to a shared priority.