A Few More Post-SHRM Insights From Marcus Buckingham

Last week during Marcus Buckingham’s keynote session at #SHRM15, the SHRM annual conference in Las Vegas, the best-selling author, researcher, and business consultant talked about a number of things:

  • The disconnected reality of performance reviews;
  • The critical need for companies to leverage technology that is designed with team leaders — not organizations — in mind; and,
  • The importance of capitalizing on the strengths of individual employees.

2015 SHRM Conference1Buckingham is concerned about the fact that management decisions are frequently based on bad data. Organizations alarmingly take one team leader’s inaccurate information and combine it with the imprecise reports of several other team leaders. In doing so, they simply produce larger silos of bad data.

This is a terrible thing. The data needs to be cleaned up. It needs to be obtained more efficiently. It needs to be leveraged in ways that have bigger and better impact.

One of these impacts is being able to effectively decide what do with each person in a company. Buckingham laments that human beings cannot be trusted to accurately rate other humans because a person will always be subjective when rating another. He observed that many organizations have tried to remove subjectivity out of the performance review process, and yet deep down these same organizations want to know the subjective opinions of those they’ve selected to lead, since these selected leaders are typically hired based on their ability to judge.

The Future of HR is an Xbox

From the stage Buckingham shared that his son Jack is an avid player of the FIFA video game on his Xbox console. But, he noted that much of Jack’s time playing the game is spent managing and creating soccer teams, rather than actually competing in soccer matches on the FIFA game.

Buckingham gave a detailed description of the team management platform and illustrated how stats and strengths of individual players can be easily reviewed and the data can be used in combination with information related to the performance of the teams being managed. In addition to analyzing achievements and shortcomings, players can be added and removed from teams with ease.

In short, Buckingham thinks HR can learn a lot from the usability of the team management platform in FIFA.

I caught up with Marcus Buckingham after his keynote and I asked him how long it was going to take HR to get from where it is now to the future he envisions.

He told me:

It’s going to take a while to persuade the current providers of all of our human capital methodologies to stop doing what they’re doing and to design things that are clearly as agile as building a FIFA team. We need [an HR practitioner] to be able to create his own team, name his own team, invite people onto the team, invite them off the team, and disband the team whenever he wants, and all of our HR data should be [specific] to that local team, right then, right now.”

In Buckingham’s eyes, until we are empowering team leaders and basing personnel decisions on clear data obtained in real-time, teams worldwide will continue to suffer and be bogged down with practices that have little to no benefit for anyone.

One of a kind employees

In Buckingham’s view, HR is in the business of dreams. He explained to the SHRM attendees that people want the chance to express the best of themselves, that each human’s nature is unique, and that the challenge in HR is not to bless people with uniqueness,but to find what is unique within a person and make them useful.

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Furthermore, he is an advocate of people finding their strengths, and told me that voluntary turnover is a symptom of lack of clarity of expectations, lack of ability to use personal strengths on a daily basis, and lack of individual recognition.

During my one-on-one chat with him, he told me that people join teams then quit their team leaders, which is why engagement and identification of strengths is so critical. He described a typical path for an employee that starts with applicant tracking, leads to onboarding, then to a place of relationship where the employee is helped to know what their strengths are on an ongoing basis.

This continuous feedback loop is a key aspect of keeping employees engaged and reaping the rewards of teams producing the best they are capable of. Through better data, more dynamic technology, and better identification of employee strengths, organizations can support their team leaders in getting the most from their teams.

Buckingham’s companies to watch

Buckingham has a compelling worldview that many industry leaders would be wise to take note of. I told him I wanted to know more about teams with extremely empowered team leaders and asked him which companies should be watched.

He named, without hesitation, Google and Chick-fil-A. He added that other teams are “reaching for it” and offered Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Hilton, Microsoft and Motorola as runner-ups.

In addition to these mentioned, it’s highly suggested you keep Buckingham’s own endeavor, The Marcus Buckingham Company, on your radar, since his experience here, coupled with his long tenure with The Gallup Organization, make him an important voice in the realms of HR, employee engagement, and how to manage teams more effectively.

Joshua Jones is director, talent solutions with ERE Media. He supports conferences and publications focused on human resources, talent acquisition, and talent management. Prior to joining ERE Media, he dedicated nearly seven years as a recruiter and sourcer to tackling hiring challenges for companies and organizations nationwide.

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