Rapid Advances in Technology Are Changing the Way We Live and Work
The exciting and sometimes scary growth and application of technology to enable innovation and development appears to be here to stay. Kids are growing up with it, and entire industries are being disrupted by it.  So, is leadership still important?  Does leadership EQ beat AI?

  • On a macro scale, the World Economic Forum reports that a 10% increase in broadband penetration is associated with a 1.4% increase in GDP growth in emerging markets.
  • On the work front, McKinsey reports what many of us have experienced – many activities that workers carry out today (about 30 percent) have the potential to be automated by technologies that exist today.

Will One-Third of Your Job Go Away?
In additional to industries like Trucking that is predicted to lose thousands of jobs to self-driving cars in the future or areas like healthcare where predictive analytics is changing the way doctors diagnose and prescribe, technology and partial automation will impact almost every job from the front-line factory worker to the CEO. Amazon has even begun to use algorithms instead of humans to predict demand of certain products.

In fact, there are reportedly 170,000 fewer retail jobs in 2017—and 75,000 more Amazon robots.  As artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and machine learning continue to grow, what skills will matter most to perform at your peak? Does leadership EQ beat AI?

Skills that Matter Least
Let’s start with the skills that seem to have the highest probability to be improved through automation. While the majority of artificial intelligence applications still require the help of humans, we believe highly automatable skills fall into two broad categories:

  1. Administrative, repetitive and routine tasks
  2. Data gathering and analysis

While we are confident that technological advances will continue to delight, scare and surprise us, these two categories seem like the lowest common denominator. We already see this happening with tasks such as grilling burgers, making salads, brewing coffee and selecting stock portfolios.

Skills that Matter Most
If the need for humans to undertake automatable tasks will be on the decline, we believe that should free up more than 30 percent of workers time to do the “human performance things” that truly differentiate one person and one company from another. We believe success will therefore become more and more dependent upon Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – the ability to understand, empathize and collaborate with other people.

Those individual and organizations that excel at EQ in three overall areas will outperform their peers.

1. Understanding Others
Invest in the self-awareness, empathy and communication skills required to read people’s emotional cues, recognize the feelings and needs behind those signals, understand what matters most to them both personally and professionally and articulate your understanding in a way that can be heard.

2. Motivating Others
Invest in the skills required to create, articulate and align clear goals and roles. Then learn how to use intrinsic and extrinsic motivation communication skills to help others to do their best work. Remember, your job as a leader is to create the circumstances to consistently get the most out of your people.

3. Collaborating with Others
Invest in the influence, change, conflict management, problem solving, project management, leadership, decision making and teambuilding skills required to produce performance results which cannot be achievable by any single individual alone.

The Bottom Line
Does leadership EQ beat AI?  The good news is that most experienced leaders already believe that emotional intelligence (EQ) is more important than one’s intelligence (IQ) in terms of being successful. Think of technology advancements as the foundational progress related to building personal and professional IQ. Then invest in EQ to take you and your team to the next level with the help of technology.

If you liked Does Leadership EQ beat AI, download 8 Reasons Leaders Need 360 Feedback

Top Employee Engagement Trends for 2018
These Top Employee Engagement Trends for 2018 are based on the employee engagement surveys from nearly 50 Best Places to Work contests, this comprehensive report is the one and only of its kind, examining employee engagement and culture trends at America’s top workplaces.  This year’s study aggregates responses from more than 600,000 employees from 8,000+ organizations across America.

The Top Employee Engagement Trends for 2018

1.  Overall Employee Engagement is Up Slightly
The number of highly engaged employees increased 0.50 percent from 2016 to 2017.   This makes sense given the level of focus and investment employee engagement has received over the last few years.

2.  Overall Employee Disengagement Has Not Improved
Despite a slight growth in highly engaged employees, the number of disengaged employees remained steady at 2.7 percent between 2016 and 2017.   We define disengaged employees as those who score in the bottom percentile.  They are disconnected from the workplace, negative, disruptive and hinder productivity.

3.  The Employee Engagement Highs
The four items with the highest favorability were the same in 2017 as 2016. This indicates that these are strong indicators of being a Best Place to Work.

  • I believe this organization will be successful in the future
  • Everyone here is treated fairly regardless of race, gender, age, ethnic background, disability, sexual orientation, or other differences
  • I am proud to work here
  • The people I work with most closely are committed to producing top quality work
  • My immediate manager cares about me as a person

4.  The Employee Engagement Lows
The five items with the lowest favorability are consistent with last year’s report, which indicates that most organizations,
including Best Places to Work, struggle in these areas.

  • When the organization makes changes, I understand why
  • I am paid fairly
  • I see professional growth and career development opportunities for myself in this organization
  • If I contribute to the organization’s success, I know I will be recognized
  • It would take a lot to get me to leave this organization (note: this item also was one of the only items to decline in favorability year-over-year)

5.  The Top Five Drivers of Employee Engagement
While all items on the survey had a positive correlation with employee engagement, some had a greater correlation than others. Items with a correlation of 0.75 or higher were considered significant drivers of engagement.

  • My job allows me to utilize my strengths
  • I trust the senior leadership team to lead the company to future success
  • I believe this organization will be successful in the future
  • The leaders of the organization value people as their most important resource
  • If I contribute to the organization’s success, I know I will be recognized

6.  Employee Retention is Still a Struggle
In a year of improved favorability, the survey item, “It would take a lot to get me to leave this organization,” was the lone detractor. Since 2014, this survey item has declined in favorability, with its most drastic decline between 2015 and 2016. Unfortunately, 2017 didn’t recoup 2016’s loss. Low favorability on this item has been found to be a top predictor of employee turnover.

7.  Managers Care About Employee Development But Cannot Deliver
The gradual increase in the item, “My immediate manager cares about my development,” is a great indication that managers understand the importance of developing their teams. However, when coupled with whether employees have visibility to growth opportunities, we see an average 10 percent gap in favorability over the past eight years. That gap has gradually widened from 9 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2017. This represents the gap between managers’ intent and their ability to deliver.

The survey item, “I see professional growth and career development opportunities for myself in this organization,” is consistently a top driver of engagement. Unfortunately, it’s also consistently been among the bottom in favorability. Empowering managers to close this gap could greatly impact engagement.

8.  Employee Recognition Is Improving, But Not Enough
Despite the improvement in favorability on the item, “If I contribute to the organization’s success, I know I will be recognized,” it maintained its consistently low ranking and high uncertainty. While employers are improving employee recognition efforts, it might not be enough.

The Bottom Line
How you engage employees matters. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.  Because each company has a unique strategy and workplace culture, we recommend you take a look at these top employee engagement trends for 2018 and determine how they impact your current talent management strategies.

To learn more about how to use these top employee engagement trends for 2018, download The 10 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Employee Engagement

Training Does Not Always Makes Sense
“Does training make sense” is an important question to ask.  And often, the answer is “no.”  Let’s use sexual harassment training as an example to highlight Training Events versus Learning Solutions.

Sexual Harassment Training
Most sexual harassment training occurs because the Supreme Court determined that for a company to avoid liability it had to show that it had adequately trained employees on its anti-harassment policies.  While most sexual harassment training can certainly help protect companies from lawsuits and impart basic information, the majority fails to solve the fundamental issue of preventing sexual harassment from happening in the first place.

So stand-alone sexual harassment training does makes sense if you need to comply and mitigate risk and are not too worried about having an unfair or disrespectful workplace.  This is certainly true of many well run and highly functioning workplaces.  If, however, you want to solve the root problems facing companies like Uber and Fox News, sexual harassment training, by itself, does not make much sense.  While training can be a vital component, it is not enough.

To systemically prevent harassment, organizations need to shape a workplace culture in which everyone is treated fairly and with respect.  The same can be said about sales, leadership and management training.  Well-designed and highly customized training can be a vital component to improve performance and behavior, but, by itself, it is not enough to move the needle.

Training Events versus Learning Solutions
We say “Training Does Not Always Makes Sense” because there is big difference between Training Events versus Learning Solutions.

  • Training Events typically strive to improve the awareness and insight of specific skills and knowledge to satisfy the fundamental compliance, health and hygiene learning needs required to attract, develop, engage and retain talent. Success is typically measured by participant satisfaction surveys.  Unfortunately, our research shows that without other reinforcement mechanism, only 20 percent of participants change their on-the-job behavior and performance.
  • Learning Solutions aim to change behaviors and improve performance. Success is typically measured by the adoption of new skills and behaviors and the corresponding lift in productivity.  Learning solutions are most often deployed as part of a broader change initiative for a team or group to solve a specific and important business problem.

The Bottom Line
If your training does not help to attract, develop, engage, retain, protect or improve employees in a way that links to an important people or business priority, it should be questioned.  Do not undertake an investment in learning until you are clear about the desired learning and business objectives and the value of accomplishing them.  Only then will you know if you need to deploy a cost effective and efficient Training Event or a more robust Learning Solution.

To learn more about Training Events versus Learning Solutions, download 3 Steps to Building a Smarter Training Initiative – One that Gets Business Results

Actively Involve Stakeholders to Accelerate Change
When you seek to initiate change in your organization – from a strategic shift to a cultural transformation to an important project – actively involve stakeholders to accelerate change as early in the process as possible.  Then create a mechanism to monitor progress, create transparency and hold people accountable.  Otherwise the inherent disconnect between the C-Suite and the frontline will sabotage your best laid plans.

The Definition of Key Stakeholders
Let’s start with a definition of stakeholders.  Who you define as your key stakeholders and how you involve them is an important strategic choice for any change initiative.  We define key stakeholders as the constituents that matter most in terms of having:

  • Influence or power over your work
  • Vested interest in the successful or unsuccessful conclusion of your work

While there are many proven methods for performing a stakeholder analysis, in general those with the most influence, power and interest in your work should be actively involved from the start and kept in close check during the change process.  Those with the less influence, power and interest can be monitored and informed as the need arises.

The Basics of How to Actively Involve Stakeholders to Accelerate Change
Though the decision for change in the organization is likely to originate at the leadership level weeks, months or years before the rest of the organization is brought into the fold, leaders are typically not the actual implementers of the change.  They may initiate it, define it, articulate it, and communicate it to the rest of the company…but they are usually not the ones to put it into action.

Leaders must depend upon their managers and frontline employees to execute change.  But how they transfer the intent, commitment and accountability from their executive vantage point to those across the organization will have a lot to do with how successful the change will be.  And in general, the farther away from the executive team you get, the more time you must spend actively involving those impacted by change if you want to win over their hearts and their minds.

Three Ways to Actively Involve Stakeholders to Accelerate Change
If change is to be executed smoothly across functions, teams and levels, change leaders must actively involve all key stakeholders early and often to increase understanding.  Greater understanding leads to greater ownership.  And greater ownership leads to greater levels of engagement, accountability and resilience.

1. Include Stakeholders Early, Frequently and Honestly
Inclusion and involvement is not the same as buy-in. Inclusion and involvement focus on letting people have a say in “how” change will be made.  Buy-in focuses on “whether” the change should be made.  In our experience, the “what” and “why” of most transformational strategic or organizational changes are not up for debate.  But the “how” certainly is.

For high levels of inclusion and involvement you need high levels of transparency and communication.  Our organizational alignment research found that the timely and transparent flow of information was 12.5 times better at high performing companies as measured by revenue growth, profitability, customer satisfaction and employee engagement.  The more your key stakeholders feel like they helped to design the implementation of the changes you seek, the greater your chances for success.

Unfortunately too many leaders fail to involve key stakeholders until the plans for action are fully baked.  If you seek change, at a minimum ensure those affected by change:

  • Believe in the new direction
  • Can articulate the rationale for the change
  • Understand the plan to get there
  • Know the part they and their teams are expected play

2. Assign Resources and Accountability
For change to succeed, you must signal that the changes are important by disproportionately investing the right resources (people, capabilities, capital, time) required to make it happen and then measuring and rewarding the change you desire. People are looking to see if the change is truly a priority by being resourced and measured accordingly.

Without transparently measuring results, your stakeholders will not know where things stand.  When people are accountable, they work together toward a known, measurable and common goal.  Managers need to be empowered to make the change happen and must know that they will be in charge of seeing that the transformation actually takes place.

You will know you are headed in the right direction when you see high levels of collaboration between levels and functions at the same time that performance and behavioral expectations are increasing.

3. Empower Those Affected by Change
Once you actively involve stakeholders to accelerate change and given them the right levels of resources and accountability, those affected by change must feel empowered to identify and solve problems themselves.  It is not easy to keep everyone engaged and pulling in the same direction during organizational change. To help accelerate change through empowerment, ensure your leaders ruthlessly identify and remove the barriers that hinder change.

The Bottom Line
Leaders may initiate change but managers and their team members will execute it.  Only when leaders actively involve stakeholders to accelerate change will actual change occur.  And only if the managers clearly understand the rationale for the change, accept accountability and feel supported can it be successful.  The key is to actively involve stakeholders to accelerate change.

To learn more about how to actively involve stakeholders to accelerate change, download The 5 New Lenses of Change Leadership

Product Training Versus Sales Training – Which Matters Most?
Many of our clients who are moving from selling products to selling more complex solutions struggle with the concept of product training versus sales training.  If you really want your sales team to up their game, what kind of training is most effective?  Product training versus Sales Training?  While it depends, the short answer is highly targeted sales training.

Two Main Types of Sales Product Training
We have found two main types of sales product training.  One that focuses on product features and one that focuses on customer benefits.  As my old boss used to say, “Features Tell and Benefits Sell.”

1.  Product Features Tell
Sales product training that focuses on features outlines what your products can do.  Salespeople should know the basics of what they are selling.  But customers, especially for complex and solution-based sales, frequently report being unable to determine why a particular feature or function is meaningful to them or different from the competition.

2.  Product Benefits Sell
Product benefits create meaning and relevancy.  While buyers tell us that they initially have little interest in learning about product features, they are highly motivated to understand what the product can specifically do for them.  In a nutshell, product benefits training ties your product features directly to something important (better, faster or cheaper) to the customer.

While the two training approaches sound similar, they are completely different.  For example, over 35 million beds are purchased each year.  The sales reps that outperform their peers do not only share the commoditized features of the bed (e.g. firmness, size or price); they sell the customer benefits (a good night’s sleep).

Two Main Types of Sales Training
We have also found two main types of business sales training.  One that focuses on fundamental awareness and insight of key sales skills (Check-the-Box) and one that focuses on changing sales behavior and performance (Move-the-Needle).

1.  Check-the-Box Sales Training
Check-the-Box business sales training seeks to improve the awareness and insight of specific sales skills and knowledge in areas such as qualifying opportunities, recommending and guiding solutions, presenting options, negotiating and closing, coaching sales reps, planning for major accounts, etc.  Success for Check-the-Box sales training is typically measured by levels of participant satisfaction and attendance.

Check-the-Box sales training solutions are most often deployed as open-enrollment offerings for individuals and are used to satisfy the basic compliance, health and hygiene learning needs required to attract, develop, engage and retain sales talent.  From an expectations standpoint,
Check-the-Box sales training improves awareness and insight.  It does not change on-the-job performance.

Based upon over 800 sales training projects, well-designed Check-the-Box sales training, without other supporting interventions, will change the on-the-job behavior of 1-in-5 sales reps on average.

2.  Move-the-Needle Sales Training
Move-the-Needle sales training aims to improve the 1-in-5 average by improving explicitly identified sales behaviors and increasing targeted sales performance.  Success is typically measured by the adoption rate of new sales skills and behaviors combined with the corresponding lift in revenue, margin, win rate, portfolio mix, deal size or sales cycle.

Move-the-Needle sales training is treated as a sales change initiative, not a stand-alone sales training event.  Because of this, move-the-needle sales training is tied directly to the sales strategy and focuses on the critical few unique sales skills and scenarios that matter most for your unique situation.  It then creates high levels of accountability and support through frequent practice, feedback, sales coaching and sales training measurement.

The Bottom Line on Product Training versus Sales Training
Product-based training and selling focuses on the product…

  • what it can do
  • how it works
  • what it looks like
  • how much it costs in its different configurations

Solution selling, however, combined with product benefits training focuses on the customer…

  • who they are
  • what problems they face
  • what issues concern them
  • how what you have to sell will directly help them be successful

To navigate toward a more consultative sale, your sales team needs understand Product Training versus Sales Training to better acquire a different set of tools and skills than simply knowing the features of their offering or the soft skill sales basics.

To learn more about improving the performance of your sales team, download The 30 Sales Questions More Important Than Budget

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