Thoughts from the HCI Engagement and Retention Conference in Chicago

Yesterday I had the privilege of participating in two panel discussions at the Human Capital Institute’s Engagement and Retention Conference in Chicago.

I moderated the first panel on behalf of my friends at the Management Innovation Exchange. This panel featured the winners of the first Human Capital M-Prize: Lisa Haneberg of MPI, Joris Luijke of Atlassian, and Doug Solomon of IDEO. The Human Capital M-Prize competition, run jointly by HCI and the MIX, was designed to find bold ideas, stories, and innovations highlighting ways to unleash the passion of people within our organizations.

Lisa began by presenting her winning hack, entitled Start with a better question to create a better talent management system: the Talent Management Cloud. She made the case that the “old kind” model where engagement and retention are owned within the HR function is fundamentally broken. Because there are so many factors well beyond the control and influence of HR alone, responsibility for talent management must be the responsibility of the whole organization. I’d encourage you to go take a look at Lisa’s winning hack if you are interested in learning how to put her more holistic model into practice.

Next, Joris, who came in all the way from Sydney for the conference, took on the performance review– something he described (accurately in my book) as universally hated by both employees and HR people around the world. Joris shared his story of how Atlassian designed a kinder, gentler, more humane performance review system and rolled it out within the organization. You can read Joris’s original story Atlassian’s Big Experiment with Performance Reviews on the MIX.

Finally, since I make no secret of being an IDEO fanboy, I was excited to share the stage with Doug Solomon, CTO of IDEO. Doug shared his winning story, entitled The Tube: IDEO Builds a Collaboration System That Inspires Through Passion. Frustrated by so-called collaboration systems that IDEO found desperately lacking, they took on the challenge of designing their own, using a model based on facilitating person-to-person interaction more akin to Facebook than your typical knowledgebase or database-driven collaboration system. Doug also shared that a company called Moxiesoft has taken The Tube and turned it into a product, which I can’t wait to go check out.

At the end of the session HCI announced a new M-Prize, which will run from now through December 9th. This M-Prize is called “Encouraging the Gift of Leadership” and will be an effort to discover innovative ideas for how we can stimulate and support the development of “natural” hierarchies, where influence comes from the ability to lead, rather than from positional power within organizations. Have a great idea? You should go enter it on the MIX.

Later that afternoon, I participated in another panel where Katie Ratkiewicz of HCI shared the results of a recent survey regarding the relationship between career development efforts within organizations and overall employee engagement. I was joined on the panel by Stuart Crabb, Head of Learning and Development at Facebook, Russell Lobsenz, Director of Talent Development at Orbitz, and Cathy Welsh, SVP of Leadership Consulting at Lee Hecht Harrison.

I was particularly interested to hear Stuart’s comments regarding Facebook’s approach to career development. Basically, his thinking is that career development is primarily the employee’s responsibility (not the company’s) to drive, something that I expect was fairly controversial to many in the room (judging from the data shared in the survey), but which I couldn’t agree with more fully.

While I was excited to hear him say it out loud (because I wasn’t sure whether I’d be driven from the room tarred and feathered if I’d done it on my own), I did acknowledge that there were prerequisites for an approach where employees are accountable for their own career development to work. In my view, there has to be an entrepreneurial culture in place in the organization where employees have the freedom to explore new opportunities. I certainly felt we had those sort of opportunities while I was at Red Hat and it sounds like there is a culture based on freedom and personal accountability at Facebook as well.

I want to thank my new friends at the Human Capital Institute for a great day and some wonderful hospitality. Also thanks to my friends in the MIX community and especially Lisa, Joris, and Doug for participating on the panel. I’ll see all of you again soon!

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