The economy and society at large would be one where we actively promote an effort to turn the increasing amount of technological change to our advantage.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Tim Ringo.
Tim Ringo has more than 30 years of experience as a senior executive in HR consulting and HR software. He has architected and led some of the largest and most successful HR change programs in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Author of Solving the Productivity Puzzle (Kogan Page August 2020), Tim is also a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
In 1990, early on in my career at what was then Andersen Consulting, I was a software designer and developer. I quickly became fascinated by the impact of new technology on the workforce and gravitated to Andersen’s emerging consulting practice in “change management” — helping organizations and people assimilate technological change.
The catalyst for choosing this path came in 1992 when I was living in Prague working on a project to help the Czech government set up its first private sector bank after the 1989 Velvet Revolution. Andersen Consulting was responsible for developing and implementing the processes and technology of a modern Western bank. At that time, Czechoslovakia was in a “perfect storm” of massive social and economic change during a new era of unprecedented technological change.
It was a remarkable experience to witness, first-hand, this historic inflection point. The Czech people were both anxious and excited about the sudden changes taking place around them. My job on the project was to create learning and change programs to help the bank’s workforce deal with the new realities of working in a modern bank in a rapidly changing world — a highly rewarding role. The experience permanently cemented my future career direction: helping people not only embrace change, but thrive in it.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
In 2007, I was invited to give a keynote speech at a large conference in the Far East. I was asked to speak on how in the region organizations could leverage Western human resources practices to be more effective in managing change during a period of rapid growth. One thing I pointed out was that the Chinese had an advantage in that they could not only leverage HR best practices, but also, if they studied the mistakes that Western firms had made, they could avoid making the same mistakes.
Afterwards, a senior government official came up to me, somewhat agitated, and said: “we don’t need your advice, we will beat the West with our own best practices and will have the biggest and most successful economy in the world without your help”.
I was somewhat taken aback but made the point that in an increasingly global economy, we can all learn from each other new ways of doing things. That my intention was not to say one way is better than the other. My point was quite the opposite: in the West we don’t know everything and make mistakes.
He invited me to dinner, that evening, and we had an incredibly lively and enlightening discussion, which helped me understand, among other things, that a key value in many Asian cultures was the idea of “face”. That to admit or point out mistakes openly (as I did in my speech) was anathema to the Chinese way of thinking. I was aware of this cultural difference; however, I did not understand the depth of feeling on the subject. This was a valuable lesson; one I took into all my interactions afterwards in different cultures during my travels around the world. It is important to share appropriate critique, however, to do this successfully it is also important to understand culturally based communication barriers and adjust accordingly.
Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?
I recently retired (or as I like to call it “pro-tired”) as an executive, from SAP Successfactors, a global German software firm. So, my new project is supporting my latest book, Solving the Productivity Puzzle (Kogan Page, August 2020). In 2018, I read a white paper by the OECD forecasting the average annual rate of GDP growth out to 2060. It was depressing reading, predicting steady downward pressure on GDP growth which would negatively impact standards of living around the world.
One of the main reasons for the decrease in GDP, the OECD pointed out, was stagnating and declining people productivity. It is true, people productivity has seen steady decline since 2010. The longest period of declining productivity in measurement history. The OECD pointed out three main factors for this. Organizations:
- are struggling to align people to the increasing volume of new technology
- are not transforming their processes to align to new technology
- are not restructuring their themselves to take advantage of new technology.
I found this view fascinating, but also, in my experience, too pessimistic. In recent years, I have seen organizations recognizing these challenges and working to address them. I summarize in my book the challenges impacting people productivity but also the solutions I have seen work to solve the problem. I found in my research (and my experience) aligning people to technological change, revamping the organization’s structure, is a powerful approach to improving people effectiveness and productivity.
Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
- The first step is to do a Strategic Workforce Plan (SWP). Before hiring anyone, it is important for the organization (and the individual being hired) that you know exactly what is needed in terms of talent. I found over time it is especially important to understand what skills and roles you have and, more importantly, what you will need in the near future, say, in 12 months. Too many organizations do significant hiring without having an overview of what is needed across the company.
- Second, once you have your SWP in place, it is important to use that plan to identify the best place to find this talent. Take a targeted approach to make your role(s) known to the right people in the right place. Blanket job posting is a drain of time and energy. I have made this mistake more than once!
- Third, I ask myself, “does the role really require a specific degree (or master’s degree)?” Or, does it require a degree, at all? My best hires have been those whose educational attainment (or lack there-of) had nothing to do with the role. When I focused on the person’s life story, experience, and what motivates them, those were my best hires.
- Fourth, it is imperative to recognize that we, as humans, are significantly biased towards hiring people who are like ourselves. Overcoming this in-built bias is difficult, as it is usually unconscious. One thing I found useful was to look at the make-up of the organization as broadly as possible and look to hire people who fit with but add to the organization, rather than my specific team. This helps put a check on that unconscious bias.
- Lastly, I find it helpful to think beyond the immediate “transaction” of hiring a candidate for a particular role and try to project into the future what their path may look like for success and advancement. And, if I cannot see that clearly, in my experience that is a red flag. This has served me well on many occasions and helped to avoid making tactical hires.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
- Have a clear and compelling mission and purpose for your organization. More now than ever, people are drawn to organizations that inspire them to join. This will have people beating down your doors to join.
- Building on this point, take that mission and purpose and invest in creating an effective Employer Brand. Think of prospective employees as customers. Use marketing techniques to help make it known in the market who you are, your purpose and mission and why your organization is an exciting place to work.
- Lastly, as with customers, create and cultivate communities of prospective employees who see you as an attractive employer. Use social media to build this community and communicate often, while engaging them in what is going on in your organization.
What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?
- Most important is getting to know your teams’ individual motivations; both at work and in their personal lives. Everyone appreciates being understood in the context of what drives them
- Empathetic leadership: being a listener, rather than a talker; to my mind the most successful leaders post-pandemic are those that looked after their people and understood their challenges and helped them through. Also, saying “thank you” in an authentic manner is much appreciated; people never forget that you looked after them and thanked them for their efforts
- Endeavor to get the right people, right place, right skills, right time with the right motivation. In my book I call this “People Engagement, Innovation and Performance”. People appreciate being put in a position to flourish and perform. It is a leader’s job to make this happen.
What are some creative ways to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?
Now, there is rightly, a major focus on employee well-being. I would recommend continued investment in this area as employee health is going to be a major focus for months to come. These efforts do not “break the bank” and can be done for reasonable amounts of investment. For example, providing every employee with a (branded?) water bottle, to encourage hydration. Doctors report that keeping optimal hydration during the day (drinking between 1 to 2 litres) improves brain processing function by up to 20%.
Another very inexpensive but high-value activity organizations should encourage (and let people have time for) is personal development. Since much of work has gone online, so has opportunities for development. There is an increasing abundance of interesting and high-quality free webinars that people can watch in real-time or recorded. Let people explore these and use part of the workday to attend these webinars to build their breadth of knowledge and skills.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The movement I think that would have a major impact on people, the economy and society at large would be one where we actively promote an effort to turn the increasing amount of technological change to our advantage.
To take increasingly intelligent technology and make it more human-centric such that people can harness it to make them better at their jobs; to augment humans and make work more enjoyable and productive.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Everyone has been made for some particular work and the desire for that work has been put in every heart” — Rumi
This quote encapsulates, for me, not only a personal goal but a leadership philosophy.
We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
I would choose tennis player Andy Murray. I have been a fan of his tennis since he was a teenager and saw early on that he was likely to challenge for multiple Grand Slam trophies. His combination of intelligence, strategic play, having all the shots and an incredible work ethic with deep self-belief is inspirational. Also, his dry sense of humor is something I can really appreciate!
Thank you for sharing so many fantastic insights with us!
About the Author: Kage Spatz is a Forbes-ft. CEO & Marketing Strategist for Good — sending more business to companies that put clients and employees first. Now you can leverage the same top US-based Digital Marketing talent used by an NBA franchise & the Fortune 500 (without the same overhead). Apply today to support your CMO & serve more of your market tomorrow with Spacetwin.