Marcus Buckingham at ACE 2015

Seismic shift #3: From theoretical models to real-world behaviors

The third of the seismic shifts that will affect human capital, human resources, and the human experience at work is the move from theoretical models to real-world behaviors, according to best-selling author and management expert Marcus Buckingham.

As he explained at Achievers Customer Experience 2015, the seismic shifts will force organizations to zoom in from current broad, depersonalized views to localized, team-based approaches to talent management. Buckingham, who also is the founder and chairman of TMBC, shared that today’s HR development tools are based on models, not people.

One area for change is with competency models. As an employee moves up in a company, the competency model grows to “require” more skills and traits for the job. Buckingham says there is no real data to support competency models, and – very importantly – no one person will have all of the traits, qualities, and competencies in the model. Instead, companies need to get away from models as a way to define positions, people, and promotions and move toward tools for real managers and teams.

For instance, look at this 40-point competency model created by NASA for Systems Engineering leaders. It seems impossible to be able to accurately measure employees based on this overwhelming set of attributes.

NASA Competency Model

Buckingham said that when you study the best teams in an organization, ask the right questions, and compare the answers you get from the best teams to the answers you get from the worst teams, you can see the difference. The questions are in four key areas – Purpose, Excellence, Support, and Future – and are designed to probe how the employee feels about the team and about himself/herself in relation to the organization. Here are some examples:

  1. I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company.
  2. In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values.
  3. At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.
  4. I have a chance to use my strengths every day at work.

The manager – the team lead – is responsible for making employees feel connected to something larger and ensuring they feel they have a stake in it. Organizations must hold team leaders accountable not only for their team’s performance, but also for how team members feel about the organization.

The challenge for today’s enterprise is to move the organization’s view and workforce analytics to the local level while balancing the needs of employees to feel at once unique and a part of something bigger than themselves.

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