An Innothinker's Mind

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  • Carol Wong

During my early years as Consulting Manager in 1996, I learned about the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) as a strategic performance management methodology. Together with my counterpart from the US, we implemented BSC for a large GLC. I believe what gets measured gets implemented and reinforces accountability for results.

BSC is not just about measuring strategic performance because it also links the performance of individuals to company goals and targets. Many HR organizations have adopted the same methodology to measure the performance of their employees. Most organizations have adopted the BSC methodology more than 20 years ago.

In recent years, especially during the surge of new technology startups, startups and technology organizations have begun to adopt the Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) approach to measure what matters. Driving organizations to scale for exponential growth, the OKR approach is adopted to ensure organizations focus their energy on objectives and key results that matter to them.

The OKRs approach sounds familiar to me when I draw on my experience in BSC. Maybe it is just another terminology. From my perspective, it is not about which approach to adopt, it is really about the company's culture of making people accountable for the company's performance and results. It is also about the company’s structure and processes that enable a smooth deployment of a structured strategic performance management approach.

Given the current organizational fluidity, it is not realistic to expect measurements and targets to be cast in stone at the time of planning. A mechanism needs to be in place to review and assess achievements regularly and to make adjustments appropriately. Of course, the idea is to establish and review leading measurements as frequently as possible so that quick remedial actions be taken to address gaps or shortfalls.

While organizations prioritize revenue growth objectives and key results areas, measurements that impact employee morale and motivation should not be overlooked. People-related measurements are not the sole responsibility of HR organizations. In other words, a balanced approach is required in setting measurements and targets.

Are you implementing the OKRs approach that incorporates BSC philosophy?

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  • Carol Wong

Contributed by Ng Jia Wen

Back in 2018, Innothink Academy’s kid’s workshop marked the beginning of a transformation journey in Malaysia – implementation of Design Thinking in young minds. It is said that adults can draw inspiration when designing solutions for children. Therefore, Design Thinking is not age-restrictive. I had a first-hand experience of attending Innothink’s first workshop at an age of 15. I stumbled across the workshop back in November, thinking of it as a holiday activity. Fast forward into the studio, there were many unfamiliar faces. As the oldest of the group, I had to present myself as a good example. The first day of the workshop was more of a get-to-know each other session. Professional guidance was present whenever we had a roadblock during brainstorming sessions. The overall environment was dynamic and conducive for internal collaboration. No ideas nor opinions were disregarded so everyone hit off well despite changing groupmates. We also built business models as if we were conducting real business. Aside from the kid’s workshop, I have also attended the adult’s workshop which was more detailed and further in-depth. I learned that Design Thinking is an organized structure that follows a step-by-step basis. I realized that Design Thinking is not a process of guessing but a balance between analytical and intuitive thinking. With creativity, anyone, including a child can utilize Design Thinking. In particular, I was very intrigued by the methods as they required me to immerse myself in the situation of users. I had to be empathetic, emotionally understanding how the users feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine myself in their shoes. By doing so, I was able to identify the main issue and reframe the problem statement. Because most of the time people tend to jump straight into brainstorming solutions for the wrong problem statement. So, I learned to identify the game-changing statement, the affirmation that sparks inspiration for innovation. Merely putting the concept in words would not necessarily make one understand what it truly is. One has to experience it first-hand and conduct iterative work of prototyping and reframing the problem statement. Only then can they understand what they learned and apply it in their daily lives. In a nutshell, I envision younger generations establishing a network with professionals that enrich one another with the Design Thinking mindset. Ultimately generating holistic future leaders. Besides, rendering the Design Thinking mindset a norm will help formalize a path forward for more breakthroughs.

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Since the growth of remote working, many employers have begun to raise concerns about employee engagement. Well, unfortunately, both employers and employees have a different definition of employee engagement.

From the employer’s perspective, employee engagement means how well their employees are fully engaged in performing their tasks remotely. Employers wonder if the employees have clocked in their time at work effectively. Somehow, at this juncture, most employers do not think their employees are productive working from home. Several studies have revealed that the majority of employees of senior-level executives were more productive than expected. Maybe only a smaller percentage of unproductive senior-level executives has resulted in the C-suite's concerns about the productivity of everyone working from home.

C-suite also had the impression that the junior employees are disengaged. Those who do not have direct supervision of junior employees will wonder about the productivity of the junior employees working from home. Lack of regular interaction across multiple levels of employees would have resulted in C-suite and senior-level executives' lack of information about junior employees in general.

From the employees’ perspective, especially junior employees expect to have more regular employee engagement as they see engagement as their opportunities to learn from their direct reports. Based on the same studies above, the majority of the junior employees felt disengaged in terms of lack of mentorship and guidance. They did not feel that they have adequate support and guidance working from home. They did not have the opportunities to interact and network with their direct reports and C-suite regularly.

Similar to junior employees, the senior-level executives would expect their immediate supervisors to support and coach them working from home. The C-suite should not have concerns about their productivity working from home because they would have set specific targets for their direct reports.

Therefore, most employers are emphasizing finding ways to monitor and measure employee productivity. Although some are finding ways to improve employee engagement, the engagement tends to be interpreted as a way to meet virtually (preferably in-person meeting) for work only. Very few non-work-related engagement activities are being planned in most remote working arrangements.

Furthermore, organizational culture will be diminishing if organizations are not paying attention to sustain organizational values. Employers are developing remote working policies that tend to focus on work ethics, discipline, and productivity. Trust between employers and employees is steadily disappearing. Of course, such challenges do not arise in organizations that have already implemented flexible work arrangements (e.g. remote working) long before the current shift from the physical workplace to the virtual workplace.

I am of the view that company leaders must continue to live the organizational values in engaging their employees at all times although their employees are working from home. For example, convert your weekly huddle into a weekly virtual huddle, make unscheduled check-in with your team virtually (the check-in is intended to understand the team’s state of mind and emotion), allocate time to check-in with your team during a scheduled virtual meeting, convert your scheduled town-hall meeting into a virtual town-hall meeting.

Company leaders must continue to lead people working remotely with empathy. Greater empathy is needed to manage the emotional adjustments of people moving to remote working. Company leaders must consciously allocate time to check-in with their people whenever there are scheduled and unscheduled virtual sessions. The check-in routines should focus on asking the right questions with active and empathetic listening. This will also provide company leaders to continue to coach their people in making emotional adjustments and unleashing their potential in making effective contributions albeit working from home.

In conclusion, employee engagement is not about engaging for productivity. It is really about getting employees of all levels engaged in their passion for work excellence, personal growth, and career development. Employers must transition their organizational values from physical environment to virtual environment at all times. Everyone must continue to live the organizational values in the virtual environment. Let’s begin now with your organizational values to make employee engagement goes beyond productivity measurement.

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