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The Way HR Works Needs to Change

It seems nowadays it is rare to open up an issue of an HR magazine, visit a blog site, or attend an HR show without reading or hearing about big data.

Let’s put this in the context of HR and submit a use case where a high-tech company were to open a new HQ location. HR would be tasked to help drive the decision of picking a new city. In this case, combining census data, salary ranges, educational institution rankings, corporate tax rate, construction costs, traffic data and so on using an algorithm could generate a ranking of the cities based on talent pool data.

But the reality is that most of HR is not ready for this yet. In fact, the vast majority of HR departments are barely ready for “little data”—applying analytics to HR processes captured at the transactional level. Here is why.

1. HR is still focused on business process improvement and automation

According to recent research by Sierra-Cedar (formerly CedarCrestone) as part of the 2013-2014 HR Systems study of over 1200 companies, the top priorities for HR are business process improvements (62%), automation of talent processes (44%), and service delivery improvements (40%).

Business intelligence ...

Guess Where the Government Ranks in Customer Satisfaction?

Most Americans agree that the level of customer service they receive from cable companies and the airline industry is less than stellar. Yet, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, citizens gave even lower marks to the federal government. Only Internet service providers received lower ratings than government.

The federal government’s 2013 ACSI score was 66, two points lower than in 2012. The drop, according to ACSI, was driven by deteriorating satisfaction with agency websites broadly across government.

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Government websites are notoriously difficult to navigate, largely because they assume a level of familiarity with agency structures and programs that most Americans understand. In the private sector, however, online commerce is exploding and companies are getting increasingly savvy at making online purchases as easy as one touch of a button, even predicting things you might like and sending you featured items based on your viewing history.

This ease of doing business contrasts starkly with the online visitor’s experience to government websites, where you may be asked to submit the same information several times, if you can submit it all.

To be fair, this is a tough challenge for agencies ...

​Without Users, Performance Measurement Is Useless

Let’s be honest.  A whole lot of people in and around government think performance measurement is an annoyance that needs to get done because it is legally required. Consequently, they measure as minimally as possible to comply.

Others think of measurement as a means to motivate by promising reward or threatening punishment for meeting or missing targets. As we recently saw with the Veterans Health Administration’s medical appointment wait-time targets, ill-structured incentives unfortunately tend to encourage measurement manipulation, not performance improvement. 

Happily, these erroneous attitudes are beginning to change. Governments, their suppliers, and their delivery partners are beginning to understand the enormous value of using performance data to find ways to improve, inform priorities, and enlist expertise and assistance. Asking and answering a few key questions is crucial to realizing the full value of performance measurement. Who needs performance information to make better decisions? When and where do they need the information? Is the information getting to target users in a way they understand and when they need it? 

Harvard Kennedy School Professor Steven Kelman (full disclosure, my husband) recently described promising developments in Massachusetts’ delivery of data to schools and teachers to help them support student learning ...

The Ultimate Office Perk: Not Having an Office

Tech behemoths and startups alike spend a fortune on creating plush offices with lots of perks. But arguably the biggest perk is allowing employees to work wherever they want, whenever they want.

This is something Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg understood a decade ago when he launched the online publishing platform WordPress. Today his global workforce of 260 still doesn’t operate with a central location (its San Francisco headquarters are nearly always close to empty.) Instead of investing money into office perks, Automattic invests that money into meet-ups for its employees.

Last year at a Lean Startup conference, Mullenweg said the following about the traditional workplace: “We have this factory model, and we think someone’s working if they show up in the morning and they’re not drunk, they don’t sleep at their desks, they leave at the right time. But that has so little to do with what you create. And we all know people who create a lot without fitting into those norms.”

Research indicates employees greatly value autonomy. This is part of what’s driving millennials to leave traditional offices and go out on their own. “It’s a cultural phenomenon,” says Alex Abelin, co-founder ...

Want to Be Happier? Try Walking Even Part of the Way to Work

Our daily commutes to work can significantly influence our mental state. Taking public transportation may be more beneficial than driving, researchers find. But ultimately an active commute—especially walking or bicycling—is the most beneficial for our emotional well-being, according to an expansive new study on the topic.

“Our study shows that the longer people spend commuting in cars, the worse their psychological well-being,” says Adam Martin from the University of East AngliaThe study, just published in the journal Preventative Medicine, concludes that commuters with “active travel modes” are associated with higher rates of well-being than those who drive or use public transportation. Over an 18-year span, 18,000 British commuters were asked a number of questions to gauge their various levels of “well-being.” The questions ranged from, Have you been feeling unhappy and depressed? to Have you been able to enjoy your day-to-day activities?  Responses were then correlated with the type of transportation used to arrive at work. The findings offer additional evidence that active commuters are thought to be happier, more focused workers.

Simply adding ten minutes of walking time to your commute, the study concludes, is associated with a boost in well-being. Importantly, the scientific definition ...