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Tena Lyons (12 Posts)

Tena Lyons

Tena Lyons is Vice President of Product Marketing at SumTotal. She’s spent the majority of her career helping organizations and professionals connect with the right technology to achieve goals and transform their business. She is a frequent author and presenter on practices for engaging and developing people to help organizations optimize performance through their talent investment, and is fortunate enough to meet frequently with SumTotal customers and leading HR industry analysts and thought leaders. When not working, Tena can be found with her family and their myriad of pets (including chickens!), dreaming of squeezing in a yoga class between carpool runs to dance, hockey or robotics.

November 26, 2014

Career Moments to be Thankful For

Thankful - 3 fall oak leaves tied in a bowAs our homes fill with the smell of pumpkin pie and we prepare to reflect on what we’re most thankful for, I started to think about the moments throughout my career that I’ve been thankful for — and it’s not simply a highlights reel.  The missteps and cringe-worthy moments are often as transformational as the terrific ones.

I consider myself lucky to have worked for a variety of world-class organizations throughout my career – big and small, global and local. I’ve come to appreciate the necessity of process and rigor, although sometimes tedious to a marketer trying to get a campaign out the door in a time crunch. As I’ve spent time at smaller organizations where a ‘whatever it takes’ approach often rules, I’ve been able to recognize that the once seemingly tedious process brought much-needed consistency, order and repeatability. Having had varied experiences at differently structured organizations is something I’m thankful for, as those experiences have provided me with a well-equipped toolbox to pull from on a daily basis. Before you sign off for the week to fill your plate with turkey and all the trimmings, take a moment to reflect on the career moments you’re most thankful for — here are a few of mine to get you started:

Inspiring Colleagues
In a recent study, peers are the #1 influence, not money, in driving fellow colleagues to go the extra mile. Being surrounded by intelligent and ambitious peers can be absolutely contagious and elevate your work, and sometimes a little friendly competition helps everybody. When I look back on my own past working relationships, it’s the colleagues that questioned me and challenged me that I most value; they may not have been the work friends I grabbed coffee with, but they certainly became the ones I turned to for honest feedback. While being friends with your coworkers isn’t a necessity, it can have a real impact on employee engagement and satisfaction — a Gallup poll shows that close work friendships can boost employee satisfaction by 50%, and those with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged fully.

Learning Opportunities (including, Leadership Development)
Learning today comes in all shapes and sizes, from formal classroom training to self-guided research to in-the-moment learning opportunities that quickly serve up exactly what you need when you need it. I consider myself fortunate to have had employers that provided me with online training resources in my given field to provide a continuous on-the-job learning experience. I’ve also been given the opportunity to be a part of a formal classroom leadership program with a cross-functional group of peers. Different types of training met distinct needs at different times in my career, and all of these forms of learning have played a role in my development, including leadership. While closing the leadership gap is a critical issue for many organizations, very few organizations are working proactively to develop leaders. In a recent Forbes article, Josh Bersin highlights research showing that only 14% of companies feel their leadership pipeline is ready. In the same study, half of all professionals positioned to move into the C-suite admit they have “little or no access to leadership training”.

Poor Leaders
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, sometimes the not-so-great moments are just as defining as the terrific. With a lagging leadership pipeline, organizations are often forced to move employees into management roles out of necessity or tenure, leaving these new managers insufficiently prepared to lead and motivate teams — contributing to high failure rates among leaders. Unfortunately, we’ve all been subject to poor leaders, whether it is your direct manager or a cross-functional colleague, it can have a tremendous impact on your productivity and morale.  I’ve found that these experiences have shaped how I aspire to be (or, not be) as a leader.  To turn lemons into lemonade, I stop and think through these questions to keep a negative moment from derailing my own productivity:

  • Envision a colleague or leader you really respect (past or present), how would they have approached the situation?
  • How would you do it differently (and is that approach realistic)?
  • How could the outcome have been different with one of these approaches?

Do any of these thankful moments resonate with you?  I would love to hear from you — tweet the career moments you are most thankful for (and, why) to me at @Talentlearnwork.

September 29, 2014

Changing the Face of HR

It’s true, change is good.  Change has a profound impact on markets, organizations and individuals – but, there is a reason the saying isn’t ‘change is easy.’  As a human resources professional, you’re living (and coping with) the shifts taking place across the HR landscape. Talent is sparse and globally dispersed, workforce demographics and demands are changing, employee engagement is low and tomorrow’s leaders need to be identified and developed today. And, this is only a small sampling of the challenges keeping leaders awake at night! The ability to anticipate, cope with and overcome these challenges can have a profound impact on business performance, and as a result they are truly changing the face of HR.

Working in a company comprised of so many HR-focused experts, and partnering with and having discussions with HR professionals every day, I see and feel the shift too.  As technology and best practices evolve to meet challenges and trends, we continue to see three themes rising to the top when it comes to arming yourself to embrace the evolution and declare, “Change is good!”Changing-faces-of-HR

Here are three ways to get started:

With a compounding number of solutions and processes available to find, manage, develop and reward talent, it doesn’t seem achievable or realistic to encourage simplicity to the overwhelmed HR professional.  More often than not, we think complex matters require complex solutions. When you take a step back from the chaos, you see that simplicity can in fact be at the heart of the matter.  Simplicity doesn’t translate to a simplistic solution, rather the exact opposite.  As Josh Bersin highlighted in a recent Forbes article hailing simplicity as the next big thing in HR,” I’m not saying that our HR, talent, and leadership programs should be simplistic - in fact they have to be very profound and well designed.” In an evolving digital workplace, technologies will only be effective if they are well-adopted by those they are meant to serve.

How can an effective, sophisticated solution support simplicity?

  • Be sure it’s easy to use.  Whether it’s a technology or a workflow, make it easy for your audience to adopt.  If something is too cumbersome to incorporate into daily work, it won’t get used – and therefore, won’t product the results you are looking for.
  • Bring it all together.  I don’t know anybody that enjoys taking longer to do their job, or is happy when they duplicate effort.  When you integrate processes and technologies, you bring simplicity to the forefront of getting a job done.

I hear it and read it over and over, ”HR needs to work strategically.” What exactly does this mean? At the root of being a strategic partner to business stakeholders is the need for HR to prepare the organization to be agile enough to move with the demands of the business. As noted in the Accenture study, ‘HR Drives the Agile Organization,’ “To compete in a rapidly changing world, HR will fundamentally reshape itself so that the function becomes a critical driver of agility.”  The role HR plays in building agile capabilities across the organization is essential to achieving success in shifting markets and economies.

How can you begin to contribute to creating organizational agility?

  • Get a clear view of your workforce.  How can you align your workforce to meet changes in organizational priorities if you don’t have a comprehensive view of HR data?  Assess and prepare the workforce to put talent where it is most needed and fill gaps.
  • Create just-in-time learning opportunities.  If markets, products or customer demands change are you prepared to develop your people as they work? Prepare the workforce to adapt by ensuring they can quickly learn the skills they need and apply those skills where needed by the organization.

There are even more changes impacting HR – corporate offices are getting smaller, tablets and smartphones are everywhere, and the changing workforce wants more than an annual pay increase to stay put.  If you ignore any of these as a driving force in keeping employees engaged and productive, don’t be surprised by a slip in performance.  Give employees innovative, cutting-edge solutions that support these new ways of working and you’re likely to propel employee engagement and impact retention.

What kind of innovative solutions can really make a difference?

  • The new way to work.  Mobile, social and collaboration tools help employees stay connected and engaged regardless of geography.  It seems innovations in this space pop up almost daily, so find the ones that will truly bring value to the way your people work.
  • Keep them happy. Find new ways to reward, recognize and retain your top talent.  Whether it is through continuous feedback, leadership training or a clear development path – find what motivates people and leverage new solutions to give them what they need to succeed (and, stick around).

What do you think? How is your organization embracing change? Leave a comment below!

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