Perennial organizational challenges such as strategy execution, change management, alignment with customers, innovation, culture, and leadership effectiveness will persist and grow in the year ahead. While most organizations will continue to spin their wheels, research from the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) reveals 10 "must-do" actions that will propel your organization's productivity for years to come:

Manage beyond the enterprise and across the eco-system

Organizations must develop leaders who can lead across boundaries (e.g. employees, partners, and customers), and also establish processes and programs that leverage and provide opportunity for top talent across that eco-system. For example, an organization at risk to lose top talent due to lack of internal mobility options can strengthen important customer or partner connections by brokering candidate placements in equivalent or higher positions with those key constituents.

Focus more on the "how" of performance management

i4cp research shows that the only thing that has a truly positive effect on people performance is the improvement of the quality of the interactions between managers and employees. While there are many examples of leading companies such as REI, Cargill, Adobe, and ConAgra that have radically altered their performance management (PM) processes, very few high-performance organizations are scrapping the traditional PM model. Companies are opting to work within existing systems to better align their employees with the goals of the company by decoupling compensation from their PM process, training managers to have more frequent, quality conversations with their teams, and measuring and rewarding those managers for developing talent.

Create a data lake

As businesses and business leaders continue to be under more pressure to make evidence-based decisions, organizations must prioritize and establish a fully integrated, enterprise-wide system for data gathering. i4cp's research The Rise of Adaptive Analytics highlights EMC's "data lake," which is a data management system that incorporates very large enterprise-wide data sets in their original format. That same research revealed that only 30% of organizations use an integrated enterprise-wide level technology for human capital analytics. Yet, doing so is a practice with significant correlation to both market performance and analytics effectiveness.

Implement data governance of employee data

The November 2014 data hack at Sony Pictures Entertainment surfaced to the world what i4cp's research revealed (and predicted): companies are woefully unprepared for the data revolution when it comes to securing and managing people data and are increasingly vulnerable to security breaches. Two months earlier, i4cp's TrendWatcher, Why HR Must Be Experts on Data Governance, based on the research study, Data Governance: The Foundation to Data-Driven Decision Making, sounded the alarm, noting that over half (56%) of the nearly 200 study participants indicated that their organizations had no method of data governance at all. It's time to take charge of employee data and avoid this sort of situation from happening at your company next.

Infuse D&I in your DNA

DiversityWhen an organization pursues diversity and inclusion (D&I) because it supports its culture, is essential to unleashing innovation, and/or is integral to organizational strategy, there exists a strong positive correlation to market performance. However, when D&I is driven by a forced mandate (e.g. legal compliance) or becomes an attempt to improve the company's image or brand, the detriment to market performance is inevitable. The data is indisputable: D&I must be core to the organization's DNA. And when it is, benefits abound.

Incorporate inclusion in development

As diversity of the markets you serve, your partners, customers, and employees broadens, the need for inclusiveness magnifies exponentially. Put simply, organizations must develop inclusive-thinking leaders. i4cp's 2014 research on global leadership development showed how collaboration and influence define the new global leader. Inclusion is a contact sport and is dependent upon contact and experiences with others of diverse backgrounds, cultures, etc. Yet, while awareness and appreciation of national and cultural differences is important, the real needle-mover among leaders is curiosity about those differences and the desire to embrace them.

Ready your organization for the next generation of leaders

The Millennial generation brings a lot to the game in terms of creativity, innovation, and technological know-how; organizations need to deliver in kind in the forms of the development opportunities, challenging work, and recognition high potentials want, which doesn't necessarily mean lots of perks and rewards--it means truly recognizing their contributions, providing opportunities to receive quality coaching, and making sure their voices are heard. Also, according to a study from Pew Research, Millennial women (ages 25 to 32) are entering the workforce with higher levels of educational attainment than their male counterparts, yet pay inequity persists. Ensure that the developmental opportunities your organization offers women who aspire to leadership include components that allow them to socialize and build relationships with influential stakeholders.

Institutionalize the use of collaborative technologies as an organizational competency

SocialEmail is not a management tool. As technology enables a broader array of connections, social skills and the ability to communicate via technology becomes more critical. However, i4cp's research on global leadership development shows that most leaders lack comfort and competency with the latest advances in virtual and social networking technologies, despite the fact, that the social side of leading has a much greater variability on leadership effectiveness than business skills or acumen. Training leaders on the use of these technologies to have more frequent, fluent, and consistent communications with virtual or remote team members helps establish trust, allows performance issues to be addressed and resolved more effectively, and ensures greater alignment between the team' priorities and the goals of the organization.

Shift focus away from the enterprise LMS and associated large content libraries

The traditional Learning Management System (LMS) is being usurped by open source platforms such as Moodle, and the proliferation of the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and social media platforms; the latter of which is empowering employees to create user-generated content. While the LMS is still necessary and used in many companies, the majority of features embedded in most leading LMS' are not being used. Instead, companies are opting for "lighter" solutions. Many of these same companies are also beginning to cancel their significant annual spend on large eLearning libraries and instead making greater use of free MOOC content and less expensive, mobile-focused content.

Fuel your enterprise via the 4-Cs of a learning culture

Knowledge is indeed powerful; shared knowledge is more powerful. And knowledge that is collective, collaborative, continuous, and connected, is unstoppable. We call these "the 4-Cs of a learning culture." High performance organizations are not only providing employees with the tools necessary for this, but are rewarding managers and subordinates alike for their ability to share and spread knowledge as opposed to horde it. The call to action is clear: You must empower your organization and its eco-system (partners, customers, etc.) to share, access and leverage relevant information and insights when and as-needed.

i4cp member companies have access to a wealth of information and data on these critical topics. Contact us to see if your organization qualifies.

Kevin Martin is the chief research and marketing officer at the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp).