Artificial Intelligence is the concept itself, and both Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Learning (DL) are the current methods used to achieve it. ML uses a single layer of algorithms to process data and make intelligent decisions, and DL uses multiple layers of algorithms that more closely resemble a true neural network, allowing the AI to continuously adapt and improve its approach to processing data, thereby improving its decision-making accuracy and performance.
So, what are some real-world examples of all this AI?
1. Airplane Autopilot – this is a basic form of AI that has been around, loosely speaking, since as early as 1914. Of course, it has become much more sophisticated since then, but at its core, it’s AI. It is taking in many points of data about the various conditions of the plane, the wind and atmosphere, the telemetry, etc., and making constant minute adjustments (a.k.a. ‘decisions’) to maintain the appropriate course and speed.
2. Spam Filtration – this is another case where an AI’s ability to automatically detect and classify email as spam is based heavily on the amount of overall data it has able to process. It’s looking at certain concrete data points like an originating IP address and geographical location, while also learning from various new combinations of words that spammers continually create to try to get around filters, and using that information to try to predict when new messages, that it has never seen before, are spam.
3. Image, voice and handwriting recognition – these are used everywhere from logging into your computer, to telling your Alexa to add something to your shopping list, to depositing checks to your bank account using the camera on your phone. Trying to tell a computer how to do these things with very few data points just isn’t possible – things like handwriting and verbalization are far too different from person to person – but with thousands or millions or even billions of data points, the ability of a computer to accurately determine what a human is saying or writing increase immensely.
So how does an AI know when it’s doing a good job? Feedback. The final component of AI, after data and processing power, is a feedback loop. This is where the data scientist that manages the AI provides feedback back into the algorithms so the AI can make adjustments – how much weight or importance to put on a specific data point. For example, if you have an AI that’s responsible for sorting through millions of images to find pictures of stop signs, you may determine that the shape of an octagon is a more reliable predictor than the color red, which is also used on Yield signs.
Which brings us to another example of Artificial Intelligence – self-driving cars. Have you ever wondered why so many websites you login to, that want to make sure you’re not a robot, show you pictures of street signs and have you select the parts of the picture that contain them? It’s because you’re being used to close the feedback loop. You’re providing the same analysis you do while driving down the street every day, each time helping the AI get better and better at identifying street signs. It may seem a bit annoying to take the extra couple of clicks, but you’re not only proving to your banking website that you’re not a computer trying to hack your account… you’re also helping to build the AI that will be driving you to and from work in a few years.
AI is constantly growing and becoming more and more of our every day life. Imagine where AI will be in 5 years, 10 years or even 50 years. The possibilities seem limitless and very exciting.
The Importance of Employee Recognition for Business Performance
Did you know that organizations with formal recognition programs have 31% less voluntary turnover than organizations that don’t have any program at all? And they’re 12X more likely to have strong business outcomes. Do you know what motivates employees, the benefits (and costs) of employee recognition, and how to effectively approach it in your organization? This infographic has everything you need to know.
This infographic includes five of the top employee motivators, seven (surprising) stats on the importance of employee recognition, nine benefits and four costs of recognizing employees, and seven must-haves of a successful program. Well, what are you waiting for? Read on!
The Importance of Employee Recognition for Business Performance
What Should Employers and HR Professionals Know About Tax Reform?
On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—the most substantial reform of the U.S. tax code in over 30 years. This new law, which went into effect on January 1, carries significant changes to both individual and business taxation.
As taxpayers across the country scramble to understand the law’s implications and plan for the months ahead, businesses should consider how it will impact them from a human resources perspective. Of the numerous provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, here are a few that will significantly affect employers and HR professionals:
Tax Reform 2018 What Employers Need to Know
Changes to Payroll Tax Withholding
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made sweeping changes to individual income tax rates and brackets, so employers must recalibrate their payroll systems in order to accurately reflect the new withholding amounts. Unfortunately, employers do not have much time to do so—the updated payroll tax withholding tables must be implemented no later than February 15, 2018. These tables, which provide the specific amounts that employers must withhold depending on the worker’s income, marital status, and payroll frequency, may be found in the recently issued IRS Notice 1036. (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/n1036.pdf)
The IRS has stated that it will take additional steps to help both employers and employees determine proper withholding amounts. For instance, an updated withholding tax calculator is expected to be released at www.irs.gov by late February. In addition, the IRS is in the process of revising Form W-4 and is planning educational efforts to help employees ensure that the correct amount of taxes is taken out of their pay.
Short-Term Federal Tax Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave
The new tax law includes many provisions that will help businesses reduce their tax burdens. One such provision is a federal tax credit of up to 25 percent of the wages paid to employees who are taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Currently, this credit will only be available for tax years 2018 and 2019, but there is a chance that it could be renewed in the future.
There are several requirements that must be satisfied in order for employers to reap the benefits of this tax credit:
Employers must provide at least two weeks of leave, during which time they must pay qualifying employees no less than 50 percent of their regular wages.
The minimum amount of the credit is 12.5 percent of the cost of each hour of paid leave, if the employer pays half of the worker’s regular earnings. This amount increases incrementally up to 25 percent if all of the regular earnings are paid.
Employers may only claim the credit for wages paid to workers who have been employed with the organization for at least a year and who earned $72,000 or less in 2017.
Part-time employees who have worked for the organization for at least a year must be offered paid leave on a prorated basis.
This new tax credit represents a financial boon to many employers and employees alike. Employers that want to seize the credit should review their current leave policies and ensure that they comply with the law’s requirements. For example, they should have written policies granting employees at least two weeks of paid family and medical leave at a minimum of half their normal wages.
Elimination of Deductions for Employer-Provided Fringe Benefits
While offering businesses new ways to save on taxes, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also eliminates certain incentives that had previously been popular among employers. Specifically, the law ends tax deductions for certain employer-provided fringe benefits, like moving, parking, transit, and bicycling reimbursements. For example:
In the past, employers could deduct up to $255 per month of amounts they contributed for each employee’s transportation expenses, as well as $255 per employee per month for parking expenses. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminates the employer deduction for providing transportation and parking benefits, but employees can still use pretax dollars to pay these expenses on their own.
The law also removes the employer deduction for reimbursements of up to $20 per employee per month for biking expenses. In addition, employees must now include such reimbursements in their taxable income.
Through 2025, the new law disallows the employer deduction, as well as the exclusion from an employee’s taxable income, for job-related moving expenses paid by the employer.
Employers may no longer deduct the costs of having an onsite gym, but employees may continue to exclude this benefit from their taxable income.
Given the new tax treatment of these benefits, employers will have to assess whether the advantages of providing them outweigh their costs and administrative burdens.
While the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has ushered in several important changes for employers and HR professionals, other tax-related issues will remain the same. For example, organizations with 50 or more full-time employees are still subject to the employer mandate to provide health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—even though the tax law will eliminate the penalty on individuals who do not have coverage beginning in 2019. However, because the ACA’s individual and employer mandates are closely intertwined, many experts believe that the healthcare law will begin to unravel and the employer mandate will be struck down in the future. In the meantime, applicable large employers must continue to comply with the ACA’s employer mandate and reporting requirements.
When searching for candidates in a talent pool that is almost entirely employed, recruiters may need to be assertive in pursuing “passive candidates,” or those who are not currently looking for a new job. Fortunately, career websites and social media have made it easier to scout passive candidates and engage with them in order to determine whether they may be open to a job change.
An increasingly remote workforce.
As technology evolves and Millennials and members of Generation Z constitute a larger portion of the workforce, the demand for employers to allow work-from-home options is growing. A recent Gallup survey of 15,000 adults found that 43 percent worked remotely at least some of the time—and this number will likely continue to climb. While working from home can boost job satisfaction and help employees achieve better work-life balance, organizations also benefit from offering this option when possible: it is linked to higher levels of employee engagement and serves as a powerful tool in attracting and retaining talent.
Growing awareness of sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace.
The final months of 2017 have brought a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against high-profile individuals, from celebrities to politicians to business leaders. With victims feeling empowered to speak out about unacceptable treatment, employers should be aware of how this trend may impact their organizations—and most importantly, the steps they need to take in order to prevent sexual harassment and misconduct. For example:
Harassment training. Requiring employees and, in particular, managers and supervisors to attend harassment training is always a strongly recommended practice that is even required by law in some states. However, in the wake of the public scandals, it is more important than ever for employers to consult an attorney or HR expert and ensure that their training programs cover content that will be effective in helping to deter workplace misconduct. At CBR, our team of HR professionals provides online or on-site harassment training that may be customized to suit various group sizes and organizational needs.
Anonymous surveys designed to gauge the extent to which misconduct occurs in the workplace. If survey results reveal that offensive behavior is prevalent, the organization must be proactive in identifying the causes and implementing corrective measures.
Independent investigations. When an employee files a complaint alleging harassment, discrimination, or other forms of misconduct, it is common for tempers and emotions to flare, obscuring the ability to investigate the incident through an impartial lens. On the other hand, third-party firms like CBR take an objective and detached approach to investigating these incidents and will make unbiased recommendations for disciplinary action.
State and local laws favoring employee rights.
Increasingly, cities and states are enacting laws designed to foster fairness and equality in the workplace. For example, many states, including Arizona, have recently raised their minimum wage rates and required employers to provide paid sick leave. Beginning on January 1, 2018, employers in California will be subject to several new laws, including “ban-the-box” initiatives and prohibitions on asking job applicants about their salary histories. Similar laws are impacting organizations of all sizes across the country. In light of this trend, employers must stay informed on the requirements in all cities or states where they have operations, and consult with HR experts to ensure that they remain compliant.
Holistic approaches to employee well-being.
For years, many organizations have offered employee wellness programs with the intention of creating healthier, more productive workforces. However, employers are beginning to recognize that numerous aspects of an individual’s life—aside from physical health—may affect their performance at work. Therefore, the focus is shifting to overall employee well-being, including mental, emotional, and financial health. To foster wellness in these areas, organizations are taking steps like hosting mindfulness or meditation classes, providing assistance with paying off student loans, facilitating financial planning seminars, or offering employees paid time off to volunteer.
While it is true that the outdated systems of forced ranking and administrative paperwork might no longer be in style, the new model of performance management is gathering steam. Like a phoenix from the ashes, this revised version of performance management does more to ensure positive outcomes for both employees and their employers. From 360-degree, continuous feedback to an increasing link between performance and results, the shift has positive implications for the businesses willing to make the change.
Are You Process- or People-Focused?
When it comes down to it, many organizations believe their performance management process is more process-focused than people-focused. For instance, the goal setting, assessing, and review process is at the forefront instead of incorporating elements such as employee strengths, in-the-moment feedback, and recognition. Perhaps that is why just 4% of companies say their current approach is a highly effective method for managing employee performance.
Traditional performance management does not deliver value for companies and creates an adversarial relationship between employer and employee. By gathering information on how employees are performing once or twice a year, performance management seems more punitive than productive. In addition, traditional performance management is not tied to business outcomes or overall organizational success. When surveyed about what has changed with existing programs, companies touched on some areas that clearly indicate a shift in the traditional approach:
shifted annual discussions to more informal, frequent feedback
eliminated use of a forced ranking system
brought recognition and strengths-based coaching to bear
These three items are a stark contrast to the performance management processes of old: they are focused on actual business and individual performance.
Consider Skills and Mobility in Performance Conversations
Another related area of talent management that more and more companies are wrapping into the discussion is around skills and internal mobility. Talent mobility is about connecting employee skills and aspirations with the needs of the business. In a recent training session with a set of HR executives, I asked them how many actually had insight into the skills their organization has on hand. Less than ten percent of the hands went up, signifying that most companies don’t have the capability to take a more mobile approach to talent.
At the same time, there are companies winning at this process. A great example is Credit Suisse. The financial institution’s nearly 50,000 global employees have access to a program called Internals First, which prioritizes internal hiring and transfers over external hires. In 2016, the firm filled 39% of all vacancies with internal hires, and nearly 10% of the workforce made internal moves during the year. The company takes an innovative approach of having recruiters call internal workers that seem to fit requirements, discussing roles and moves with them instead of making it purely rest on the shoulders of the employees.
Career development is a critical part of the larger talent conversation. The recent ADTRAN case study we published exemplifies this well. The firm has used hackathons to tie together disparate pieces of its HCM strategy: branding, retention, skills development, and more. And the employees even bring it up in their performance conversations as it’s a key part of how they see themselves growing and contributing to the organization.
Employers that want to truly engage their workers should look at ways to do so within every touch point of the employee experience and every step of the employee life cycle. Because career development and skills growth are tightly interwoven with performance management, it makes a natural fit to focus on both of them with overlapping, complementary processes.
How High-Performing Companies Manage Employee Performance [New Research]
Recently we (Lighthouse research & advisory) wrapped up an amazing new project, the 2017 Lighthouse Research Performance Management, Engagement, and Business Results study. This provided some amazing insights and has given us a great picture of how employers can fight back in the ongoing battle to keep great talent while simultaneously keeping them highly engaged.
Key Research Findings
Logically, we would expect to see variations between what high-performing companies are doing and the rest of respondents. And that’s exactly how things shook out. High performers were much less likely to be using what we call “negative” performance practices like rankings and much more likely to be using “positive” practices like coaching, peer feedback, etc. Check out the table below for the full list.
Gap Analysis: High Performer are…
Focus on eliminating weaknesses
25% less likely to focus on eliminating weaknesses
31% less likely to use stacked ranking
Annual goal setting
4% less likely to prioritize annual goals
More frequent goal setting (two or more sessions annually)
44% more likely to do more frequent goal setting
Coaching for development
20% more likely to use coaching for development purposes
In the moment manager feedback
29% more likely to use in the moment feedback
26% more likely to use a peer feedback mechanism
Recognition for performance
37% more likely to use recognition to drive performance
Focus on strengths
14% more likely to focus on employee strengths
Source: 2017 Lighthouse Research & Advisory Performance Management, Engagement, and Business Results Study (n=258)
Additionally, high-performing companies are 58% less likely to say to say their approach to performance management is ineffective. Similarly, three-fourths of high performers believe their approach to performance actually increases worker engagement.
On the culture side, there’s an incredible divide between firms with a collaborative/create culture and those with a more controlling/competitive culture.
0% of employers with a competitive/controlling culture say their approach to performance management is highly effective.
Conversely, while just 7% of collaborative/creative companies say their approach is highly effective, they say that the process actually enables greater performance, not just measures it.
The other findings paint a very interesting picture and we’re actively working to produce a more holistic report examining many of them.
The Premise of the Research
The intent of this study was simple. I wanted to be able to try and make as many connections as possible between performance management and engagement. As with our Talent Mobility Value Chain model, where talent practices connect with engagement, and engagement links to revenue and other business metrics, we felt like making that connection very evident would bring additional value and guidance for employers that were considering a different approach to managing and measuring employee performance.
While other research exists, you can find the studies below that we used as a guide for building out our hypothesis. If you’re not into academic literature and want the short version, the research points to a few key themes:
Organizational culture can drive market performance
Performance practices can drive engagement and market performance
Engagement is connected with market performance
When these are examined holistically, we should be able to validate some of this research by showing connections among these areas (culture, business results, engagement, and performance management).
i4cp People-Profit Chain: A positive culture has a high correlation with market performance (defined as revenue, profit, market share, and customer satisfaction).
Kotter: Organizations with strong, adaptive cultures are more likely to have higher long-term stock performance.
i4cp People-Profit Chain: A workplace that maximizes employee productivity and performance is also highly correlated with market performance.
Kahn: Workers that understand the broader meaning of their tasks and feel comfortable with their environment are more likely to be engaged.
Sweetman & Luthans: Performance conversations based on coaching and agreement between both parties are more likely to drive employee engagement levels.
Gilbert et. al: Performance management based on forced ranking or similar systems disengages employees and harms performance.
Gallup: high engagement leads to higher customer satisfaction, profitability, productivity, and employee retention while simultaneously decreasing shrinkage, absenteeism, safety incidents, and quality defects.
Markos & Sridevi: engaged workers lead to better individual performance outcomes (Say (advocacy), Stay (retention), Strive (productivity/performance) as well as better organizational outcomes such as profitability, growth, safety, and customer satisfaction.