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Highlights of i4cp’s 2018 Conference – Next Practices Now – Day 2

There’s a heck of a lot of science about this, across many fields . . . timing really matters, and organizations don’t take timing seriously enough.”

Best-selling author and dynamic speaker Dan Pink kicked off day two of the i4cp Next Practices Now conference by sharing highlights from this new book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. As with his past bestsellers, his presentation was a perfect blend of research, storytelling, and take-aways. Pink first explored the hidden patterns of a typical day that can profoundly affect mood and performance. Morning “peak” is best for analytical work; afternoon “trough” should be reserved for administrative work, and subsequent “recovery” is best for generating insights and creativity. Second, he presented finding and implications of the episodic rhythms of beginnings, middles, and ends, noting that much energy and meaning can be generated during the end phase. Q&A followed with a great tidbit praising the power of short naps timed with coffee—a “napachino.”

“There is going to be tough love this morning; I have ideas on what we need to stop doing.”

Patty McCord, author, speaker, and former Netflix CHRO continued the conference theme of courage and leaning into change with a call to action for reinvention of HR. Her humor, straight-forward style, and comedic observations of conventional HR were a refreshing take on our work today. Walking through the tenants of the famous Netflix Culture Deck, McCord shared Netflix stories and more recent insights to bolster her rally cry for the audience to “stop doing stuff that doesn’t work!” In particular, she railed against the HR employee retention obsession believing that we put timeframes around talent and build great organizations that people would be proud to be part of. All in all, it was a credible yet provocative call for HR to step-up as innovators creating the future we want while tossing aside what doesn’t work.

“Those courageous decisions are some of the best decisions we ever made in our history.  It changed our firm—people willing to take a chance.

Navigating through a tough environment but deciding to take a different path than the rest of the industry was the foundation of Betty Thompson, Chief People Officer at Booz Allen Hamilton’s story of how the value of unflinching courage drives organizational agility. Facing significant industry change a few years ago, the leadership team decided to courageously cut costs deeper than their competitors and invest simultaneously in a strategic innovation group and center.  Revising purpose and values of the firm, they established “unflinching courage” as one of the five core values that paid dividends in current work culture and growth. Booze Allen defined unflinching courage as speaking truth to power, maintaining convictions, and bold thinking—and Thompson provided examples of each dimension. She ended by challenging everyone to identify an area where our own unflinching courage would make a different in both our organizations and the personal lives of others.

“We have to be careful when using the current buzz words and choose what feels right in our own organization.”

A panel of leading HR practitioners ended the morning by affirming the agile theme of the conference but also setting a pragmatic approach its application. The panel was comprised of Tameika Pope, Chief Human Capital Officer, Federal Reserve Board; Emily Dancyger King, SVP, Talent Management & Diversity, McKesson Corporation; Paul Fama, Global Learning Leader, GE; and Chris Kujawa, VP Human Capital Capabilities, American Express.

Each provided their own experiences in building agility in the face of change in their respective firms. The practicality extended during the Q&A, during which the advice to the audience was to only introduce innovative ideas for this conference that solves a specific organization problem and find the right balance of core stability to build agility around.

“The real fuel driving our economy is the freer movement of people to new companies who need them more quickly than before.”

John Challenger, CEO of research and outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas provided a wide-ranging commentary on labor market dynamics as interviewed by Mark Englizian, i4cp Total Reward Board Leader. A sample observation: Veterans, parents returning to the workforce, and upskilling potential workers in cities areas of high unemployment are critical challenges. The gig economy in traditional firms is in the nascent stages, but we will see more as talent platforms and phenomenon such as the casual worker expands. High skill levels in analytics and EQ team abilities will drive careers forward. The investment in lifelong learning needs to be constant—from companies and individuals—not just during good times.

“Our purpose is the same, but we are focused on changing how we work.”

i4cp’s CEO, Kevin Oakes, wrapped up the day with an onstage dialogue with Jacqui Canney, EVP Global People Division Walmart. If anyone can talk about taking an innovative pilot idea to scale, it’s Walmart with staggering statistics of stores, associates, and customer transactions.  Further, it’s a company center stage in the battle with the shifting retail landscape. The numbers and stories from Canney point to success in both areas, with consistent sales growth and execution of innovation inside and out. Aligned strongly with the business and fully adopting design thinking for renovating HR practices, she cited a number of examples of speed—making a major benefits decision in 72 hours to setting up 200 leadership training academies. But Canney also exerted wise judgement in knowing when to hold on to current practices for a bit longer to allow associates time to digest other changes. This savvy perspective of courageously driving change and innovation while holding to core purpose and employee empathy delivered a fitting close to day two.

Kevin Wilde
Kevin D. Wilde is a strategic business advisor to the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and currently serves as an executive leadership fellow at the University of Minnesota. His prior 34-year corporate career includes serving as the head of learning and talent management at General Mills. Chief Learning Officer magazine named him CLO of the Year in 2007. His most recent award-winning book is, “Coachability: The Leadership Superpower.”