Winter 2018

Winter 2018 • Talent Economy

Editor’s Note


ike many people, I played a lot of organized sports as a kid. Soccer. Baseball. Basketball. I even tried tennis — and wasn’t very good. But there was no sport more central to my childhood than ice hockey.

I first put on ice skates at age 3 and never looked back. What followed was a nearly 14-year span where I played the sport at a decently high level, spending many of my weeknights from grade school through high school traveling the Chicago area for games, and many weekends traveling farther to cities like Detroit and Toronto for tournaments.

To this day, even though I no longer play, I still have a love for the sport. Looking back, playing at such a committed level taught me a lot of valuable lessons about hard work, discipline and character — lessons that remain relevant to my career today. But perhaps one of the most important skills I learned from being part of teams growing up was how to set goals and work to achieve them.

Goal-setting is important for any individual or business in any career or field. And growing up, the teams I played on spent a lot of time at the beginning of each season talking about what our collective goals were and how we would achieve them. Our coaches were always transparent about where we stood as a team, what we were capable of based on our collective skill and talent, and what their plans were in helping us achieve our individual goals to help the team achieve its wider goals.

As we start 2018, I think it’s important to revisit the importance of organizational goal-setting and what goes into making it a successful exercise.

While different from team sports, every company has goals, in the form of annual revenue and profit targets and other performance measures they set out to attain. Many companies openly talk about these goals with their employees.

Yet, many don’t. Many companies, especially those that aren’t public, keep their revenue targets and goals restricted to certain individuals or executives, likely those in sales or other direct revenue-producing functions. Meanwhile, most employees are left in the dark on what the company is trying to accomplish or where it stands. They’re left to put their head down and do their job based on whatever information they’re given — typically a set of rote tasks they repeat over and over, day after day.

Some people are content with this, so long as they keep getting a paycheck. But increasingly these days, most truly talented individuals aren’t — and it won’t be long before they leave as a result.

Most high-performing talent needs more. They need to be part of organizations that set clear goals and collectively discuss about how they’re going to achieve them. They need to know where the company stands financially, what it’s revenue and profit goals are for the year, and how they can map out their individual performance goals to fill the gap. And as the year goes along, they want to be updated on their progress.

Not only does this provide employees with a true and transparent state of the health of the business, but it also provides everyone with a shared purpose toward how to keep the positive aspects of the business humming while opening up the conversation to identify solutions that will fix whatever shortcomings are prominent elsewhere.

I’d argue that it’s more important to transparently set and discuss company goals when it comes to underperforming parts of the business. This way the onus isn’t just on the executive team to find a solution; by opening up about the challenge to the rest of the company, you as a leader are inviting them to help in meeting the challenge, further motivating them, and the entire company, at the same time.

To be sure, this is easier said than done. In hockey, or any sport, the team’s performance is on full display at all times. You either win or lose; in each case you can see what performance elements are successful and which are lacking.

Business isn’t as clear-cut. Not every employee can see the score in real time. It’s up to leaders to make that happen.

Frank Kalman, Managing Editor

Winter 2018 • Talent Economy

Sponsored By

Don’t Lose Sight of Competence and Connection in a Digital World

By Leah Clark, Director, Strategy & Development
BlessingWhite, A Division of GP Strategies


t’s no surprise to anyone that digital transformation is likely to continue with increasingly profound impact on how organizations conduct business. This disruption is massive, requiring new rules for operating in a digital world as well as changing how employees and customers want to interact with organizations. As a result, businesses need to shift to a new way of working.

A recent Harvard Business Review study indicated that “70% of CEOs believe they do not have the right skills, leader, or operating structure to adapt.” As organizations evolve and try to figure out how to shift to a digital business leadership model—from recruiting and sales to customer service and internal communications—what are the implications for the leaders of these organizations? How does leadership change in a digital age? And what skills will become most critical to lead successfully?

Winter 2018 • Talent Economy


Susan Fowler
is a professor in the Master of Science in executive leadership program at University of San Diego and the author of dozens of articles as well as peer reviewed research. She is also a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Cos.
Julie Winkle Giulioni
is the co-author of “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want” and is a speaker on a variety of topics and a regular contributor to many business publications.
Ronni Hendel-Giller
is principal of Insight Out Leadership, a leadership advisory firm. She is also a facilitator, speaker, executive coach and writer for various other leadership and executive coaching groups.
Michelle Rafter
writes about employment, workplace issues, transportation and how tech is transforming them all. She’s a contributing editor at Workforce and a regular contributor to national business publications. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Volume 3, Issue 1
Winter 2018

President John R. Taggart
Vice President, CFO, COO Kevin Simpson
Vice President, CRO Clifford Capone

Vice President, Editor in Chief Mike Prokopeak
Editorial Director Rick Bell
Editorial Art Director Theresa Stoodley
Managing editoR Frank Kalman
ASSOCIATE EDITORS Andie Burjek, Lauren Dixon, Ave Rio
COPY EDITOR Christopher Magnus
Video and Multimedia producer Andrew Kennedy Lewis
EDITORial Interns Marygrace Schumann, Alexis Carpello
CONTRIBUTING ILLUSTRATORS Mike Centeno, Christina Chung, Tonya Harris, Zoë Van Dijk
Contributing Writers Mark Flickinger, Susan Fowler, Julie Winkle Giulioni, Ronni Hendel-Giller, Michelle V. Rafter, Stephen Young

Vice President, RESEARCH & ADVISORY SERVICES Sarah Kimmel
Research Manager Tim Harnett
Data Scientist Grey Litaker
Research Content Specialist Kristen Britt

Media & production Manager Ashley Flora
Production Coordinator Nina Howard
Events Content Editor Malaz Elsheikh
webcast Manager Alec O’Dell
Events graphic designer Tonya Harris
Regional Sales Managers Derek Graham, Robert Stevens,
Daniella Weinberg
Director, Business development & events Kevin Fields
Audience Development Director Cindy Cardinal
Digital manager Lauren Lynch
digital coordinator Mannat Mahtani
Business Administration Manager Melanie Lee

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Winter 2018 • Talent Economy


Winter 2018 • Talent Economy

Higher Ed Shake Up

Changes to how we educate the workforce are coming. What those changes bring remains to be seen.

by Frank Kalman


o most people, Virginia Foxx is a relatively unknown United States Republican congresswoman from North Carolina. But to some in the higher education industry, Foxx is public enemy No. 1.

That’s because, as chairwomen of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, she is spearheading a revamp of the sprawling, 542-page Higher Education Act of 1965, a process that appears likely to shake up higher education in ways that will make many school administrators uncomfortable.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal in December, the bill, titled the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform Act, or PROSPER, aims to overhaul the country’s student-loan programs, mandate more transparency on graduates’ earnings and discard much of the current regulatory framework on for-profit schools. As of publication, the bill was still working its way through the U.S. House of Representatives; an initial version in the Senate isn’t expected until early 2018.

Above all, the bill aims to alter the structure of higher education by focusing on student outcomes. It does this through a provision that would require colleges and universities to publish graduates’ salaries five and 10 years down the road. What’s more, it will require schools to break out data down to the academic-program level rather than for the entire school.

The Truth About Negative Feedback

by Stephen Young

Leaders know that providing regular feedback is an essential tool for success. In fact, giving feedback infrequently comes with a price. According to a study of more than 80 U.S.-based executives conducted by research and advisory firm the Center for Creative Leadership, not giving poor performers feedback costs organizations thousands of dollars per day.

Unfortunately, recent reports have confused the issue by suggesting positive feedback has a bigger impact on performance improvement than constructive criticism.

To shed more light on the this question, my colleagues and I at CCL conducted a survey of 235 leaders from organizations around the world. Participants were asked about the total performance feedback they gave and received in the previous three months, with the goal of understanding how feedback is being handled in today’s workplaces to identify gaps in current practices and develop benchmarks to help leaders understand feedback’s value.

Big Business Gets Comfortable With On-Demand Work

by Michelle V. Rafter

Rich Postler is about as corporate as it gets. He’s spent 31 years at Procter & Gamble, most recently as the consumer products conglomerate’s vice president of human resources, global shared services and global information technology.

But get Postler talking about how P&G has embraced on-demand work and he sounds more like a guy working in Silicon Valley than at a 108-year-old corporation.

That’s because for the past two years, Postler has spearheaded a drive to rethink how P&G gets work done. A cultural shift to be more responsive to market demands has seen the consumer products giant switch some project-based work from full-time employees or large third-party vendors to independent contractors hired through freelance platforms.

5 Recruiting Tactics Firms Should Use When Scaling Quickly

by Mark Flickinger

Making the right hires costs leaders one of their most precious resources — time. If they do it well, finding that new team member can take months of effort. If they do it poorly, a lot of money can go to waste.

With that in mind, here are five tips for how to bring aboard the best team possible:

1. Become your own critic. As an investor, I have greater confidence in founders who are able to identify the gaps in their teams and in themselves. A June 2017 study by the University College of London found that authenticity is key to landing a new job. Instead of trying to hide their weaknesses, leaders should own them and then hire someone to add to and complement their skills.

4 Steps to Managing Morale During CEO Pay Disclosure

by Lauren Dixon

Public companies were used to releasing the pay of their CEOs to the Securities and Exchange Commission, but they recently started doing it a bit differently.

At the end of the 2017 fiscal year, public companies had to report the median total compensation of all employees of the company minus the CEO, along with the CEO’s total compensation and a ratio of the two. The new rule, whose intent and expected results are unclear, was part of the Dodd-Frank Act enacted by the Obama administration following the 2008 financial crisis.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, CEOs in top U.S. firms received about 271 times the average pay of a typical worker in 2016; the ratio in 1965 was 20-to-1.

5 Tips for Crowdsourcing From Within

by Lauren Dixon

Crowdsourcing can work wonders for a company when it comes to improving its products or services.

But not all companies want to share their problems or product insights with the outside world. Also, employees might want to weigh in on company issues and share their own insights into how the business operates.

Here are five things to keep in mind when crowdsourcing internally:

1. Get the word out. Communicating a crowdsourcing initiative internally can be through email communication or posters in office hallways, said Christopher Tucci, professor of management of technology and chair in corporate strategy and innovation at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

INSIDER • • • • • • • • • •

Teaching Growth With Jim Conti

by Frank Kalman

Jim Conti went to school to be an educator before pivoting to the world of startups. Here he shares his insights on the transition, how startups are rethinking how they manage talent and why Chicago is a unique environment for young companies.

In 2009, Jim Conti’s days were spent presiding over a classroom of 30 energetic and curious sixth-graders. Just a few short years later, Conti would pivot into an entirely different career but one that would require just as much energy: as a talent executive in the Chicago area technology scene.

While Silicon Valley continues to earn acclaim as the capital of the world’s technology sector, Conti works at the center of a startup market in Chicago that he says is quietly becoming a sleeping giant. For roughly four years, Conti worked for technology company Sprout Social Inc., most recently as its director of talent. Conti has since moved on into a new role as people leader with another Chicago-based technology company, Dscout.

Talent Economy spoke with Conti in October 2017, when he was still with Sprout, about making the transition from teaching to leading talent, what enterprise companies can learn from startups and what makes Chicago a competitive market compared to the likes of Silicon Valley. Edited excerpts follow.

Winter 2018 • Talent Economy

by Lauren Dixon
illustrations by Mike Centeno

Companies need workers to be able to retire at a certain time but most aren’t financially ready to do so. Here’s why and how employees need to save more — and the business case for companies to do more to help them.

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comfortable retirement is nearly impossible for most of the American workforce.

Longer lifespans, a major savings shortfall and increasing standard-of-living costs — particularly around health care — are just a few of the reasons why Americans face a retirement savings deficit of between roughly $7 trillion and $14 trillion, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security. The median retirement account for workers nearing retirement age holds only $12,000, whereas the conventional advice is to have about $1 million, or at least 10 times someone’s annual income.

Today’s most recent crop of retirees are those that were born between 1946 and 1964, also known as the baby boomers, a group that faced major changes to the retirement landscape during their working years, according to Susan Weinstock, vice president of financial resilience programming at the AARP, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy group.

Winter 2018 • Talent Economy

Organizational Collaboration’s Dirty Little Secret

Much of your company’s collaborative success can be chalked up to only 4 percent of your employees. And those employees aren’t too happy about it.

By Carole Bernstein, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Across companies and sectors, people are being told that collaboration and teamwork are critical to their company’s future. The time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by at least 50 percent in the past two decades.

But in fact, a small number of employees are shouldering the collaborative burden, according to the recent Harvard Business Review article “Collaborative Overload” by Rob Cross of the McIntire School of Commerce and Reb Rebele and Adam Grant of the Wharton School. In a study of over 300 organizations, the authors found that 20 to 35 percent of value-added collaborations are being generated by only 3 to 5 percent of employees.

Winter 2018 • Talent Economy

Beyond the Transactional

How the financial services industry should embrace next-gen learning to get ahead of digital disruption

By Tim Harnett

When ATMs were first introduced, many predicted bank tellers would disappear, as transactional tasks could now be completed by machines. Yet between 1970 and 2010, the number of tellers increased — even as the number of ATMs grew.¹ Tellers’ marketing and interpersonal skills became vital to the job, as they completed tasks that ATMs couldn’t.²

The need for critical skills continues to challenge the financial services sector. As blockchain technology threatens to further automate transactions and processes, employee responsibilities will shift. With the ubiquity of smartphone apps that handle financial transactions automatically, organizations will need to develop their employees differently to effectively serve a more knowledgeable customer base.

Winter 2018 • Talent Economy

Elevating All

How developing frontline workers develops brand loyalty and creates a talent pipeline

By Tim Harnett

Countless articles have been written about how to develop office workers, mid-level managers and executives. Yet one workforce segment often isn’t included in those conversations: frontline workers. And this worker segment is ripe for development. “There’s about 70 to 75 million people who have left the path of educational attainment and are in frontline jobs,” says Sean Stowers, director of learning services for Pearson North America. “There’s 30 million people in the workforce without a high school diploma and another 30 to 34 million people with some college but no degree. This workforce segment represents untapped potential for the organizations that employ them.”

Winter 2018 • Talent Economy

by Susan Fowler
illustrations by Christina Chung

Many leadership development efforts are based on outdated notions around motivation. It’s time for leaders to change that.

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If you still refer to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Herzberg’s hygiene factors or McClelland’s achievement motivation theory, it may be time to rethink your approach to motivation. If you still think of motivation in terms of carrots and sticks based on Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning, then it’s definitely time to rethink what you do as a leader and the way you do it.

Motivation is at the heart of everything an individual does — or doesn’t do. If you accept the idea that talent is the primary currency of the modern economy, it behooves you to let go of outdated theories and consider how to integrate the latest motivation science into what you do — and don’t do — to mobilize talent.

The science of motivation provides profound evidence for rethinking leadership development. Two major breakthroughs have advanced our understanding of human motivation, explaining what many have suspected: Many traditional approaches to motivation are ineffective, suspect or potentially harmful to people’s well-being and productivity. These breakthroughs also present exciting opportunities for attaining the results we seek while promoting our employees’ well-being.

The Future of Workplace Learning

Illustrations by Tonya Harris

A number of factors ailing the traditional higher education industry have some calling into question what its role will be in preparing students for the future workforce.

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Where Higher Education in Workforce Development Is Headed

By Lauren Dixon


he popular notion that traditional higher education — namely four-year colleges and universities — is the primary vehicle for preparing the future workforce is fading.

Against a backdrop of record-low unemployment and a seemingly healthy economy is a higher education ecosystem under heavy scrutiny. Even though the share of high school graduates heading to college has increased in recent years, a skills gap has left more than 6 million jobs unfilled as of the end of 2017, according to the United States Labor Department. This has many calling into question the value of a traditional college degree, the cost of which is increasingly unattainable for most Americans.

Meanwhile, a plethora of alternative, technology-enabled online learning platforms are beginning to find mainstream appeal. Some are even partnering with companies to help fill the skills gap, while universities race to establish platforms and partnerships of their own to compete.

by Julie Winkle Giulioni and Ronni Hendel-Giller
illustrations by Zoë van Dijk

Today’s era of uncertainty has many leaders uncomfortable. But to survive and thrive in this age, a new type of leader that embraces this reality must emerge.

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oday’s business landscape can be described in many ways: volatile, ambiguous, chaotic. But few leaders would suggest the environment facing them is as predictable as in past eras. In fact, the level of uncertainty leaders face today may be greater than ever.

Across industries, most organizations are grappling with increasingly challenging dynamics. Change is a constant. Evolving economies and emerging technologies offer exciting opportunities but create an environment that is increasingly complex. Morphing demographics confound talent and customer markets. Innovation, disruption and competition emerge from increasingly unexpected sources.

Winter 2018 • Talent Economy

Thanks for reading our Winter 2018 Issue!