Where a growing circle of business leaders comes to share, learn, and inspire organizations to put people first

Whirling Chief

Organizational Development

Nº 82

An Interview with Deloitte’s Don Miller

Let’s start the year off right, shall we? We recently interviewed a dear colleague, Don Miller, who is the Managing Director and US Analytics Leader for Organization Transformation & Talent at Deloitte, based in Seattle, Washington. But first, let’s allow Don to introduce himself. ☺

WC: Don, our mission at Whirling Chief is to make work a better place for many. As the world is redefining what it means to ‘work’ and devising new methods of management, will you tell us how you define ‘work’ as you experience it across many organizations?

Don: Holistically, I think that many companies are focused on redefining how work gets done in their organizations. In many cases, this focus is taking precedent, to inform how organizations are structured and organized. On the larger scale, we are seeing many changes in how work is executed, such as the gig economy (e.g., Lyft, Uber, TaskRabbit, etc.). It is clear that employers and employees are both trying to think through how to define what elements of their career or workforce, respectively, are changing. Employees want impactful career experiences and want to be connected to mission-driven organizations.

The contingent labor trend is also on the rise. More employers are looking to contingent labor to address rapid growth and/or flexible workforce segments. On the other side, more and more talent is becoming interested in the contingent worker career path, provided they have the appropriate benefits and work experience.

Work is also changing via Technology. A couple years ago, Deloitte had a study called “The Overwhelmed Employee.” In that study seventy-four percent of employees reported they find it very challenging to be great at their job, great at home, great with their friends and family, and great in their community – particularly because they are always connected to their work via technology. There seems to be increasing, yet not always necessary, complexity in the way that we work and the connectivity with which we are expected to work. This presents an opportunity for us all to create simplicity in the ways in which people experience work and in the ways people collaborate.

WC: I was going to ask about trends for the future of work, but you already listed some of them. One of the trends that came up was managing workplace demographics. We find there is no one solution that fits all in terms of driving productivity and satisfaction across different demographics in the workplace, but are there any key practices you see that you would recommend for managers?

Don: Yes, our “Global Human Capital Trends 2016” identified the top 10 trends that Global Executives are thinking about. However, I think the top four trends are the most relevant to your question.

The number one trend was around organization design and the rise of teams. The second trend was around leadership and understanding generational differences. The third was culture and the fourth was engagement. These four trends are important because they’re highly interconnected.

Let’s talk about organization design and the rise of teams first. The fact that product- and service-based companies are moving faster and faster and needing to get closer and closer to their customers, they must work in more highly productive ways, and the smaller teams enable them to do just that. You can’t effectively manage teams if you don’t have a sense of strong leadership that understands generational differences, demographic differences, and experiential differences to build the right team. The idea of team effectiveness has become even more important because of that. Leaders not only need to better clarify what is their purpose and vision for a product or a service, they need to be able to align that vision to the organization’s culture and appropriately engage their employees to  draw from their experiences and skills to be successful.

How does culture fit in? If your culture and strategy are aligned, your employees are almost a third more profitable, 50% more productive; there is 30% higher chance of innovating over your competitors and 40% higher retention.

With strong leaders, teams, and culture, you are more likely to foster employee engagement at the team and individual levels to create highly engaged teams of employees doing the work they love to do and seeing how it connects to broader business goals.

WC: Many service functions, including Human Resources, are getting a push toward working with data. What’s the impact of working or not working with people analytics for businesses?

Don: My reason for getting involved in this profession was because there was a lack of quantitative and analytic capabilities being leveraged in organizational and talent areas. In the last 10 years, that has certainly played out. Other functions, like Finance, are also trying to move into more digital types of capabilities (e.g., machine learning and robotics/process automation). What I do see as a critical gap for HR are the data management, visualization, and storytelling skills needed to create a high-functioning analytic capability.  However, that gap is closing quickly.

One skill in this area is information management – looking at the data or database table to understand how it works, how data fields connect to one another. That’s a critical skill. Another is data visualization. Can one take a given data set and visualize it to help business leaders see the big (people) picture? The third is data storytelling. It is about being able to spot trends, and telling an impactful, and factual, observation about the data in the context of the business to facilitate better decision making. Developing HR capabilities in these three areas can rapidly advance your organizational and talent data analytic efforts. In fact, mature HR organizations are looking into building their advanced data analytics capabilities – predictive modeling, machine learning, and algorithm development.

WC: Deloitte has years and years of data and experience in consulting with organizations. We predict ‘culture’ is going to be a key focus area for business and HR leaders in 2017. Would you agree with that statement? And if so, how do you define ‘culture’ and ‘cultural transformation?’

Don: We asked in our survey last year about ‘culture’ and 86% of our executives surveyed globally said the culture is very important. Eighty-two percent of them reported believing that culture is a potential for competitive advantage; however, only 12% of them reported believing that their company or organization is driving the right culture, and over fifty percent of them are trying to change it.

The hard part for any organization is how to quantify the concept of ‘culture’.

First, culture aligns with your business strategy or purpose (for non-profits). Second, culture has to be shaped by leaders’ actions and decisions. It’s not simply about putting a plan in place, rather it is about leaders walking the halls every day and demonstrating the behaviors that are ‘right’ and in line with their chosen culture.

WC: How do we help our colleagues get clearer regarding measurement? When they say, for example, culture, I don’t know how to quantify that? How do we help them think about the measurements and quantification of data differently than they do today?

Don: We have a solution called “CulturePath” at Deloitte, it breaks culture down to eight categories in two dimensions.

The first is the core dimension of culture. These are the foundational cultural elements that I call the “table manners” that organizations typically demonstrate and are easy to remember. Think when you’re sitting at your desk every day and you look around to see how your organization is behaving – these are certain core areas you notice.

On the other side, there’s the differentiating factors – these are about why people get up and go to work every day: Courage, Commitment, Diversity, and Shared Beliefs. They help us measure the emotional connection between an organization and its workforce.

WC: With the evolution of the workforce, we see more organizations choosing to keep a small core global headcount to leverage more contingent staff for specialized services. Do you see this trend continuing? And if so, are there any learnings you could share for organizations to be effective in engaging contingent staff, and how to best mine their knowledge while still having a positive impact on core staff?

Don: When we think about contingent workers, there’s a couple things to say:

With the contingent worker population growing, it puts more and more talent in a gray area between HR, finance, and procurement. Seventy-three percent of organizations don’t know exactly how much they’re spending on contingent labor.  Sixty-five percent of freelancers that work as contingent workforce say their career path is more respected today than three years ago. Finally, forty-five percent of the workforce is expected to be contingent workers by the end of this year.

I guess we can say with confidence that there’s a couple things that need to be managed here: cost and efficiency being one. The other could be around technology and mobility such that people can share workloads anywhere in the world. I think the biggest is around risk control and transparency. The globalized gig economy is requiring employers to understand not only what brings employees value but also how to manage them. I wouldn’t worry about trying to figure out what the bigger gig economy is all about, but I would encourage employers to figure out what their contingent workforce strategy is going forward, with finance, procurement, and HR working together to solve it.

WC: Thank you very much for your time.

For more information on Deloitte Human Capital practices, to receive a copy of Global Human Capital Trends 2017 (coming out in March), or to reach out to Don Miller, you can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

Date

  • 25 January 2017

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