Talent Management

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Why Managing Data Scientists Is Different

The process of managing a data science research effort “can seem quite messy,” writes MIT Sloan's Roger M. Stein. That can be “an unexpected contrast to a field that, from the outside, seems to epitomize the rule of reason and the preeminence of data.” While businesses are hiring more data scientists than ever, many struggle to realize the full organizational and financial benefits from investing in data analytics. This is forcing some managers to think carefully about how units with analytics talent are structured and managed.

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Measuring the Benefits of Employee Engagement

It’s well known that employees’ attitudes toward the organization have a significant effect on how they approach their jobs and how they treat customers. But recent research suggests that high levels of employee engagement are also associated with higher rates of profitability growth. While the products and services many companies offer can appear quite similar on the surface, exceptional service can be a competitive advantage. "Although we recognize that the ultimate focus of most organizations is on customers," write the authors, "companies can benefit from adding employee engagement to their list of priorities."

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Salary, Benefits, Bonus … and Being

At the 2015 Milken Global Conference, attracting and retaining talent is a hot topic. It used to be that the job negotiation formula was simple: salary, benefits and bonus. But that’s not enough anymore. The next generation wants something different from their work life than their predecessors — a more self-actualizing experience — and corporations are scrambling to decipher the keys to keeping employees engaged.

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Does Your Boss Want You to Sleep?

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Being fresh for the work day requires prioritizing sleep — which organizations can do a better job encouraging. Academics Christopher M. Barnes and Gretchen Spreitzer argue that sleep is “a key to human sustainability” but note that many leaders model behavior that discourages getting a full night's rest: executives who brag about only needing a handful of hours of sleep “are not setting a good example, especially when it comes to getting the best performance out of the talent in an organization.”

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‘People Analytics’ Through Super-Charged ID Badges

The data points employees generate about everything from how often they interrupt others to how many people they sit with at lunch tell surprisingly useful stories. Ben Waber, CEO and co-founder of Humanyze, describes how his company is providing the tools and analytics to interpret this social data, helping businesses identify the best collaborative practices of their most effective people.

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From the Editor: Expecting the Unexpected in Project Management

If there’s one thing that’s certain about undertaking complex projects, it’s that not everything will work out exactly the way you planned. The Spring 2015 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review highlights project management, in “Reducing Unwelcome Surprises in Project Management,” “How Executive Sponsors Influence Project Success,” “What Successful Project Managers Do” and “Accelerating Projects by Encouraging Help.” In a nutshell, managers must expect the unexpected in projects.

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How Executive Sponsors Influence Project Success

In each stage of a project's life cycle, two or three behaviors have significant impact on the project's likelihood for success. These behaviors, by the executive who is sponsoring the project, ensure effective partnerships with project managers and require a great deal of informal dialogue. They include setting performance goals, establishing priorities, ensuring quality and capturing lessons learned.

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Teamwork Plus Creativity Equals Engagement

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Employees can be inspired to perform better if their creativity is challenged through teamwork. At four Deloitte LLP offices in India, an experiment in team-based contests to come up with smart, challenging and practical solutions to real-life business problems unleashed out-of-the-box, original thinking that challenged traditional wisdom.

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The Other Talent War: Competing Through Alumni

Companies increasingly recognize the value of maintaining good relationships with former employees. Recent research, however, reveals a new insight: It’s also wise to pay attention to what your competitors’ former employees are up to. "Many managers don’t typically think of previous employees in competitive terms (if at all), and have virtually no tools or frameworks to help them wage this talent war," write the authors.

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The Dark Side of Information Technology

All of our wonderful mobile devices don’t always make us good at managing what we do with them. Handling information flows can take a toll on employee well-being, with some employees experiencing “technostress” from the pressure to multitask and to respond to Emails quickly. But there are steps executives can take to counter the negative effects of IT use. These steps encourage employees to step back and examine their personal relationships with IT.

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Why Sleep Is a Strategic Resource

Simple as it sounds, regular sleep is the best antidote for a fatigued or stressed-out workforce. But many modern workplaces condone practices that are not conducive to healthy sleep schedules, with leaders setting the expectation that others need to be at the office at all hours of the day and night. The authors argue that managers should “allow employees to separate from work when the workday is finished” and think of sleep as a strategic resource that is a key to human sustainability.

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The Perils of Attention From Headquarters

Visits from corporate headquarters to operations in markets such as China are often seen as overly time-consuming and unproductive. According to one China country manager of a European luxury-goods group, “Not only do they come often, but they want to spend more time, and they all come on weekends! For my team, it means that nearly every weekend, there is somebody to entertain.” The authors offer a set of recommendations for healthier dynamics between corporate headquarters and affiliates.

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At Amadeus, Finding Data Science Talent Is Just the Beginning

Everyone wants to hire skilled data scientists — especially Spain’s Amadeus, a travel sector technology company. Amadeus has brought more than forty new hires into this post since 2013. But locating talent is just the beginning. In an interview with MIT Sloan Management Review, Amadeus’s Denis Arnaud describes the steps he takes to not only identify data science talent, but to make sure they integrate well into the company, too.

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Why the Non-Superstar Might Be the Most Important Team Member

Hot shots get all the attention, but other team members can be the ones who make a group really tick. “Plus/minus” analysis, which is used by some professional sports teams, lets organizations understand, through data, not just individual performance but performance in context. Research by Thomas H. Davenport details how the goal is to understand how a team performs when one person is part of the mix, and when they’re not.

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Bringing Fun and Creativity to Work

How do you inspire employees to become more motivated and perform better? By challenging them to test their creativity and collaboration skills through a team-based contest. “The contest provided a safe environment for participants to unleash their imaginations and form an emotional connection,” write the authors. “That, in turn, triggered an increased level of psychological ownership and positive feelings.“

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What Businesses Can Learn From Sports Analytics

In professional sports, some teams are becoming sophisticated in using data to measure team and player performance, sports business and health and injury prevention. Sports teams’ use of analytics has much to teach other managers about alignment, performance improvement and business ecosystems. For instance, teams are beginning to assess performance in context, seeing how teams do with or without a particular player. This “plus/minus” analysis could be a valuable technique for many businesses as well.

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The Dandelion Principle: Redesigning Work for the Innovation Economy

People who are “different,” either behaviorally or neurologically, can add significant value to companies. The authors, who studied the practices of innovative organizations and the experience of a Danish company working with people with autism, argue that companies can benefit from adjusting work conditions to embrace the talents of people who “think differently” or have “inspired peculiarities.” “Managing innovation is less about averages and more about understanding outliers,” write the authors.

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The CEO Experience Trap

New research suggests that hiring a CEO with previous experience in the role is not always a wise choice. Authors Monika Hamori of IE Business School in Madrid and Burak Koyuncu of Rouen Business School in France, collected data on 501 CEOs of S&P 500 corporations. About 20% had at least one prior CEO job. Their findings? “Our research found that these prior CEOs performed worse than their peers without such experience.”
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Would Your Employees Recommend You?

No matter how good a workplace a company provides, it may come not matter if employees dislike their immediate line managers. Most of us have at had direct experience with egocentric or micromanaging bosses, and we have seen how much damage they can cause.

So why is there so much bad management? “Most managers have a remarkably narrow or ill-thought-out understanding of how their employees actually look at the world,” writes Julian Birkinshaw of the London Business School.

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The Dangers of Disgruntled Ex-Employees

A study of professional soccer players found that players who left a team on bad terms subsequently played unusually well against that team. This phenomenon, known as the “Immutable Law of the Ex,” demonstrates the power of a person fueled by anger and pressure to prove new loyalty. The findings are relevant to other settings in which organizational performance relies strongly on individual contributions. Employers can prevent employees from wanting to strike back by being sensitive to morale.

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