Category Archives: Conference Recaps

The Gig Economy: Top Talent in a Temporary Role

balancing act photoPer a McKinsey and Co. report titled Independent work: Choice, Necessity, and the Gig Economy, some 162 million people in Europe and the United States—or 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population—engage in some form of independent work. Also known as freelancers, contractors, members of the gig economy or the contingent workforce, this employment style is real and it is here to stay. On November 15, members of an NYHRPS Forum discussed the impact this work model is having on the HR function and the workplace dynamics.
Technology is Enabling the Growth of the Gig Economy
Managing complexity. Being agile and able to quickly respond to change. A wider variety of workplace skill sets than needed in previous years. Companies of all sizes are looking at ways to maximize the blending of a traditional employee workforce and non-traditional working relationships. Technology is a big enabler in creating the gig economy, however, these workforce changes are no longer a nuance to the technology functions. Rather, technology is creating platforms by which to acquire, engage and keep track of the work requirements and work deliverables.
Appropriate Cultural Changes will Ensure the Success of a Contingent Workforce
Key to making such a culture successful is understanding the scope and requirements of the work to be done. From there, leaders can determine how to hire such talent and “the time to competency” for such hires. Competency, however, is not enough. In a team-based organization, the culture is equally critical and the ability of the team to truly succeed is based on levels of trust that encourage creativity as well as an understanding of the corporate brand that will resonate in the work output.
Talent Development – Who Owns What?
The Disney Corporation was mentioned as a company that devotes a lot of time to the orientation and on-boarding of all staff and all contractors. As such, they have achieved a level of consistency in their ability to deliver customer happiness, superior customer experience, and a global brand.
In an environment where job descriptions quickly become obsolete and new specialty areas are demanded, where can members of the contingent workforce be trained? Within the concept of hiring top talent for temporary roles, should people be hired for their aptitude or their proven experience? And, as talent is brought into the business for varied periods of tenure, how does the employer capture and preserve the corporate knowledge that has been transferred in the process? In other words, who owns the training and development functions for temporary talent?
The Evolution of the Workplace
As leaders, we acknowledged that never before has the creation of a workforce planning discipline been more important; the requirements of the work to be done can be approached in such a broad variety of ways. Likewise, never before has the team culture been more important with the C-suite serving as the chief cheerleader of the culture and the facilitator of a team focused on an aligned purpose.

The NYHRPS Forums aim to deliver industry knowledge and thoughtful business considerations to be taken back for debate within our employer and client circles of influence. In closing, we walked away from the Forum thinking about four major categories of conversation that will improve the integration of a contingent workforce.
1. The concept of good work vs good jobs expands the horizon for – who- delivers the outputs. (See John Boudreau article on the Employee vs Contractor Debate
2. A holistic concept of individual aptitude and time to competency presents new options in delivering a truly diverse workforce.
3. “Garbage-in Garbage Out” applies to the onboarding process of today’s contingent workforce. Embracing the contingent worker with the same level of orientation and an understanding of the company ethos is critical to getting the best outputs. Consideration should be given to what, if any, differential is made in the onboarding of employee vs a contractor.
4. Delivery models for health insurance, long term savings and overall benefit programs are changing; while the individual need for these programs remain strongly intact.

I invite you to keep the conversation going by responding to this post and telling me what you are doing to maximize your relationships with those working with you in a gig or contractor relationship.


Leadership in a Crazy World

True to the theme of his new book, 64 shots : Leadership in a Crazy World, Kevin Roberts, leadership expert and Saatchi and Saatchi Chairman walked on stage and proceeded to punch out a series of anecdotes about leadership that were relevant and important for all generations. Moderating the conversation was Alexis Glick. The event, held on Wednesday June 15, was created and hosted by The Academi of Life and held at The Center for Social Innovation. Listening to the conversation, one could not help but sit on the edge of their seat, reflecting a similar stance Kevin took as he spoke about Leadership in a Crazy World.

So, why now? What is different about today’s leadership requirements?

Instant. Constant. Connected. Three words describing today environment where “the medium is the consumer” and measurements of success are correlated to the speed at which you learn, fail and fix. The military coined the term VUCA to describe a methodology that goes beyond strategy to real time situation management. In military terms, the acronym stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. For Roberts, the business leadership definition of VUCA is Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy (as in one person with one idea can change the world) and Astounding (as in speed). To both the military leaders and the business leaders, the message is blunt: Stop strategizing and assessing what actions to take. Be ready to do it NOW.

June 15 shirley moultonEveryone, Everyone, Everyone Needs a Plan
We are all quick to help and to advise others. However, critical to a leaders’ ability to lead others is the development of their own plan. Doing that means:
What is your one-word equity? Bruce Springsteen is The Boss. What is your essence?
When are you at your best? Variables might include time of day, environment, and available resources.
• What will you never do? Things are instant, constant and connected. What if something changes faster than planned; what was “reasonable” before may no longer be reasonable now.
What is your five-year dream? The next five years only happen once.
List three challenges that you will hold yourself accountable for over the next 12 months.

Kevin signed copies of his book while participants discussed their favorite anecdotes. For those who want to do it again, Alexis put the conversation on Periscope. Find it here. Join the conversation and let us know which leadership advice makes the most sense to your situation.

The Ongoing Conversation Needed with Performance Management

How does the performance management system tie to the needs of the business and how does individual performance get measured at the business dashboard level?

This question provided the big picture challenge addressed at the March 22 NYHRPS Forum facilitated by Dr. Anna Tavis. While previous practice sought to replicate the GE methodology, it is no longer the gold standard for management and leadership. Rather today’s leaders have become fast, lean machines that try something and test it on the go.

Intrigued by the case studies presented by Dr. Tavis, NYHRPS members wanted to continue the dialogue with specific action items that they could take back to their offices. And so, on May 3, NYHRPS Board Member Deb Seidman facilitated a Mastermind Group amongst a small group of members who had participated in the earlier Performance Management discussion. Participants brought case studies that reflected their current work. As a Mastermind group, questions were posed and advice was given, allowing the NYHRPS member to leave with an agenda that they could develop in their own organization.

Cultural Changes at the Grassroots Level will Impact the Success of a New Performance Appraisal System

While a wide range of questions came up during the discussion, case study conversations focused on three specific themes across organizations
• How does a small company take the best of the processes followed in a large enterprise while keeping its entrepreneurial spirit and nimbleness?
• How do you create of a culture of feedback at a grass-roots level?
• How do you create a common line of sight across organizational and personal missions… as to improve performance and achieve common goals?

With Forum participants representing both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, Dr. Tavis asked:
• How do employee motivations differ in for-profit vs a non-profit entity?
• If nonprofits are mission driven, what does the concept of top down goal setting look like?
• Is a bottom up approach to goal setting more applicable to the non-profit where grass-roots programs and local area relationships are critical in meeting the organizational objectives?

One group considered what they would do if they were starting a performance system from a clean slate. Lessons learned from previous discussions provided the important anchors for building a new system or revising one in place.
• First and foremost end with a positive impact on the business strategy
• Focus on a simple method to identify good performers
• Create a culture of constructive feedback to accelerate and sustain high performance
• Get buy-in by incorporating the employee perspective
• Include customization for significant groups by division, generations, etc.

Another interesting moment in the conversation focused on finding champions to support those spearheading the organizational changes. Both the General Counsel and the Marketing teams were singled out as strong partners.
The Mastermind meeting structure was a new format for the Forum Committee. It brought nuances to the meeting that can only be discovered when individuals share the specifics of their individual stories in the spirit of trust, confidentiality and peer advisement. The Forum Committee thanks both Anna and Debbie for their contributions in facilitating these programs and to our participants who came prepared to share and to learn.

A recap from the March 22 discussion can be found here.

NYHRPS Break-Through Innovation Series of Forums provides a platform to discuss emerging issues among thought leaders, peers and HR decision makers in intimate settings limited to 15 participants and 2-3 experts.

What Can HR Do To Prepare Leaders For A Rapidly Globalizing World?

NYHRPS, the NY Chapter of HR| People & Strategy, hosted a membership group of some 15 executives on March 24 to discuss best practices and viewpoints around global leadership development. Citing recent articles in the Wall Street Journal, facilitator Patrick Wilkinson framed the conversation with references to the significant leadership changes taking place at organizations like Prudential, Credit Suisse  and other Fortune 500 firms. Participants commented on the importance of such pivotal management placements not only at the helm, but on the Board level and within the middle-management ranks. Other participants expressed concern with the development of global leaders when attitudes around diversity and inclusion at the local level remain a challenge for many.

What capabilities will our future leaders need to be successful in tomorrow’s global environment?

While many at the table have held global positions and lived abroad, there was concurrence  regarding  the difference between leading globally through an internalized  understanding of the local area cultures vs. leading a global organization though the lens of one’s own home country. Ex-pat assignments are often short-term and executives live in ex-pat compounds vs. living within the communities of their staff or customers. Not only do they miss the enculturation needed to broaden their perspectives, but they also fail to learn how to make decisions based on the political, economic, and social factors that affect business in these foreign markets.

This being the case, how does one identify and develop those who can truly lead in unfamiliar environments where subtleties in one’s backgrounds are not always obvious –and can bring enormous implications to management style and perspective?


Does living abroad make one a global leader? Can global leadership be learned?

Here our participants had mixed opinions:

  • There are many ways to promote a global mindset, even while in the U.S. (For example: Be part of a cross functional or global virtual team, read world news, read world history to understand the culture, visit ethnic communities.).
  • Short term assignments, affectionately coined “professional management tourism” do not guarantee agile global leadership ability.
  • Some around the table felt that “global mobility” was a mandatory requirement for senior leadership opportunities.

In the development of agile, global leaders, what role can Human Capital Leadership play in ensuring that those who “get it” or have the ability to develop “a global mindset” are identified, coached and placed in situations where they can indeed thrive?

A pre-read article from Accenture Strategy titled “Leadership Imperatives for an Agile Business” outlined the three dominant themes that define effective leaders who are creating and enabling agile business environments. These themes were:

  • Vision and strategy: Defining short-term needs and long-term perspectives in a manner that accommodates being reactive to immediate events while being thoughtful to emerging trends. This is best accomplished by inviting those “outside of the mainstream “to the management meetings.
  • The relationship between leaders and followers: To manage through uncertainty, leadership traits must be developed across all levels of the organization – not just within the senior most management ranks.
  • Driving results: A flexible operating model requires ongoing clarification and reinforcement of expectations, roles and responsibilities.

What is the appropriate definition of “Fit”?

This research study, like the other articles that we read in preparation for the Forum defines logical, measurable actions that are being used to build the nimbleness demonstrated in today’s most agile organizations. However, it is here, that our group paused to acknowledge a viable reason why these programs are finding inconsistent success. Specifically, the reason is Human Behavior.

  • As the pace of change continues to accelerate, the requirements needed in the talent pool change — often being defined in real-time.
  • The infamous theory that you hire talent based on “fit” needs to be critically re-assessed. “Fit is the enemy of innovation”; Fit implies status quo by today’s definition. Transformation comes from radical thinkers who thrive on “smart” change. Innovation and fit should be viewed as one’s ability to change the thinking of others through smart, data-grounded ideas for improvements.
  • Hiring managers need to look at how best to bring talent into the organization that will bring provocative thinking to the table and be rewarded for doing so. In some circles, “failing fast” is the norm and sequential learning takes place exponentially as leaders build upon test and lean scenarios.
  • Herein lays the core of the conundrum: People often hire people who remind them of themselves (consciously or unconsciously). Companies frequently exit-out employees (purposely or subtly) who do not fit the culture.

As a result of this, companies ensure that the drive for fit–the survival of the out of the box thinkers — does not take place. One could say that some companies are weeding out their very best talent; the very opposite of the original intention.

To change this, we need to develop a tolerance and objectivity in seeing the value that non-conformists bring to the corporate future.

  • Organizations like Google, Apple and Amazon seem to know how to do this. While these companies were developed in a ‘new age based on new rules”…….is that really an excuse for the older, established enterprises that are struggling to transform their agility. Really now: Is legacy an excuse for stagnancy? Blockbuster Video. Eastman Kodak. General Motors. See a trend?
  • One participant asked: Do some companies have cultures that are so insular and idiosyncratic that they won’t develop a global mindset? Another person asked if a political change is required first?

Is agility a learned process or a culture? ballerina

Agile leadership is a priority for companies of all sizes and industries. Our Forum included commentary on mid-sized markets, as well as the non-profit sector.

As I wrote this post-event article for NYHRPS, I found this article from Marketing Profs, a leading resource for marketing executives. Four Steps to Creating an Agile Marketing Culture, does not address global issues however it certainly resonates with the conversation around our table.

……” companies often put in place a process, or a set of processes, to address agility instead of taking the time to work on building the culture required to achieve agility and sustain it—What does an agile culture look like?

  • People work across functions and silos to collaborate in self-organizing teams.
  • Decision-making is empowered, and it happens as close to the work as possible.
  • Teams are trusted to experiment, to take initiative, and to even fail as long as they learn.
  • Work is done in short, active cycles of prioritize-test-learn, prioritize-test-learn, and so on.
  • The customer is at the center of decision-making.” Within this context, we refer to the customer of the corporation (Pepsi drinkers, car buyers, and consumer checking account-holders) vs. the (internal) customer to the HR functions (the Business team or the C-suite).

Agile leadership. Global leadership development. None of it matters if it is not directly linked to the business strategy of the organization. And, if the business strategy of the organization includes a global presence, then agility, nimbleness and “the embracement of different becomes expected”.

Are you giving fair consideration to individuals who do not present a traditional fit? Are you creating a tolerant environment for those who represent a diverse profile to the situation? The global organizations that succeed will; and, they are getting ahead of the game by doing these things right now.

Congratulations and appreciation to all who participated in this Forum.

This article was shared on the NYHRPS website on April 10, 2015

Article Written By Sharon Lewis.

The NYHRPS Global Leadership Development Forum Team includes: Sharon Lewis, Laura Mindek, Laura Petersen, Bruce Segall and Patrick Wilkinson.

The Big Rethink US 2014 Conference

I was lucky enough to attend The Big Rethink US 2014 Conference delivered by conference logoThe Economist and further supported by MENG. The discussions surrounding big data, social networking and customer engagement crossed almost every industry. In this blog post, I will share twelve highlights from the March 2014 conference; they are in no particular order. For additional twitter streams, check out #BigRethink, @TheIdeasEconomy and @sharonlewisnyc.

1.Real Time Marketing
This is the Holy Grail that we marketers seek to achieve with confidence, reliability and available budget parameters. The concept behind achieving this is to set up multi-functional teams that are empowered to be spontaneous within a pre-determined set of boundaries. Huh?? Is this possible?
Yes. The example was the 2013 SuperBowl Dunk in the Dark Oreo campaign. With a zero media spend; one tweet generated 525 million media impressions.

2.Data Context: Opt-in May Still Need a Human Intervention to Avoid Bad Assumptions
At @1800Flowers, they do not assume that you send the same person a Valentines’ Day bouquet every year! In a similar vein, you cannot re-use the data that you collect for an arrangement being sent for a funeral or for condolence purposes. Enough Said!

3. Our attention span has become so short that we do not take the required time to explore many worthwhile options. Here are two examples:
Remember the amount of time that what went into making a 30 second or 60 second commercial? Our requirements for immediate gratification (read: short attention spans), have further crept into the creative process. What happened to the evolution of an idea? Some speaker discussion suggested that similar to the final campaign, the creative process has become one that demands instant gratification. As such, we may be pre-maturely eliminating some great campaigns and bottom line results.

As it relates to getting the consumer to the action stage of the offer: @MaryKayUS spoke about a mobile – first strategy with the goal of accomplishing any action within two clicks. …. “Making it easy for the soccer mom en route to the practice field” to be productive……. @SherryAG That does sound pretty close to instant gratification!

4. We have too many channels of vertical expertise. This impacts our corporate structures and our recruitment efforts
Comments from the CMOS of Lowe’s and The Weather Company spoke to trying to break down the vertical channels of expertise. As an industry, we have already established many proven formulas for successful, relevant marketing. While the quantity of the messaging channels has changed, and the available channels for marketing have changed…… The principles of relevant messaging and singular focus to action have not changed.
A good marketer can learn the nuances of a unique communications channel; Good marketing skills are applicable across any vertical channel. Hence why do we suggest otherwise in our (formal and informal) recruitment and career development policies?

5. “Say what”…….Whose language are you speaking? Whose perspective are you sharing?
There was an “aha moment” when the McCann Truth Central story was shared about a focus group participant stating that they engage in low rates of text messaging. Further probing revealed that this young adult had some 300 text messages daily; another participant piped in to say that they wake up some mornings to 1000 messages on their phone. @McCannTruth @TruthLaura
Lesson reiterated: Perceptions are everything. Probe and define the perception from which one speaks!

6. Crisp, singular messaging is nothing new and should continue to be a mantra for good communications.
Remember the old adage for a good billboard ad: six words or less! Why do we act surprised when the role of crisp singular messaging is re-proven with each new communications channel that we invent?

7. Data Sharing and Privacy
There are conceptual lines that consumers use in determining how/when/what they share. Brands are starting to learn that consumers are more aware than ever that they are sharing and that when they do… “They want something back for it”. Many of the speakers noted that they have received customer complaints from those feeling that their data was not being maximized. Again, this creates a fine line in differentiating a personalized experience from a Yuk factor, also known as a “creepy factor”. The app for a healthier lifestyle called @Noom, spoke to their success in the creation of trusted on-line weight-loss support groups; Caesar’s Entertainment spoke about real time data updates regarding the preferences of their clientele.

8. Data Context, Data Filters and Timely Data vs Relevant Data
A real time, big picture challenge that continues to be tested by marketers are the models behind: How does a brand insert themselves into a conversation that is appropriate and relevant to the customer experience?
• Here is where mobile is changing the retail shopping experience.
• Here is where content is being taken to new levels of storytelling, relevancy and entertainment (interpreted as three distinct and intertwined objectives).
• Here is where the concept of “filter failure” needs to be fine-tuned for efficacy and relevancy.

9. Would this ad prompt someone to want to see the ad again?
It seems logical that re-watching an ad is an important criteria to wanting to share the ad, thereby allowing it to go viral. Music videos being replayed on YouTube are a great example. The “Lowe’s Fix in Six,” vine series offers simple, everyday improvements that could also fit into the category of a “want to replay it”. The Apple ads that speak to what you can do with an apple product were touted as another example.
It is hard to predict what will spark a viral reaction; it is easier to go with creating something that people simply want to see/hear/experience again.

10, Note-taking was visual and intrigued everyone in the audience. Take a look

11. Analysis Paralysis
With data exploding at unparalleled rates, projects quickly become so big that they are scary—even to the best minds in quantitative model development. The presenters advised that we all just get in there and start doing it — not everyone can have the big budgets, however everyone can create learning environments.

12. Funny Expression of the Day
The budgets available to test, measure and deliver were never stated during the conference. SVP and CMO of Frito-Lay North America enthusiastically shared some memorable experiential campaigns with the audience. And, with such stories, she had us all laughing with the expression: “The juice is worth the squeeze”.

In closing: I will paraphrase an organization that was not represented at the conference: “Ya gotta be in it to win it”

Wishing us all much positive learning in our campaign endeavors.

This blog originally posted in March 2014 through the community via

The Future of NYC–MAS Summit 2012

What a treat to be viewing a classic Central Park landscape and listening to thought leaders discuss the challenges and the opportunities for making our city more livable. On October 18, I attended the MAS NYC Summit 2012 held at the Allen room-Jazz at Lincoln center ( With a view of the Christopher Columbus installation, it was fitting that one of the speakers asked: “Will the Christopher Columbus living room serve as a prototype for the smaller NYC apt models being considered for future development? (Unlikely -) The annual MAS Survey on Livability in New York City was overall very positive: • 84% of New Yorkers are satisfied or very satisfied with their life in NYC. • Employment is the #1 overall threat to being able to live happily in NYC (reported by 22% of participants) • NYers recognize the importance of infrastructure and transportation improvements and are willing to tolerate short term inconveniences for the longer term benefits. Identifying with their local neighborhoods, it is not surprising that meaningful community engagement builds exponentially on both the creative solutions to today’s challenges and the support needed during the implementation of same. As conversation continued around the breadth of opportunities and critical planning needed to deliver smart and sustainable urban planning — the point was made that the current boondoggles affiliated with zoning, landmarks and ULURP — must be simplified. Today’s industries are filled with examples of industries that have streamlined their activities and approval processes using the efficiency and intelligence offered by today’s digital economy. While this conversation took place in the morning, I laughed when the afternoon conversation surrounding plans for East Midtown was emphasized as a long term plan necessitating some 20-30 years to complete! Hmmmm Innocuous comments that make for great cocktail party conversation included: • The projection of bridge tolls reaching the $25 mark in 2020. • In the quest for the creation of middle class jobs- what constitutes a good job? What jobs are more likely to create wealth for the individual and for the economy? Economic data highlighting the job growth in low skilled industries since September 2009 emphasized this point further. What can we learn from the positive evolution of the manufacturing job status in previous years which generated very positive economic activity? How can we maximize the melting pot of local area residents, technological advancements and changing consumer attitudes and behaviors for ourselves and for our children? • NYC has more students than the general Boston population. • Within 15 years, 20% of NYers will be 60-plus years of age, representing a bigger segment of the population than school aged children at that time. No discussion would be complete without addressing the role of the arts. Rich stories demonstrating how best to re-purpose space that is not maximized exemplifies the magic in smart alliances. Reasons for this vacant space range from the building use and design to the economic factors which present under-utilized real estate today. The best examples of the alliance with the arts community brought real time revenue for the artists and the landlords; other examples ensured local manufacturing opportunities. My day ended with one of the most exciting presentations: Grand Central Terminal-The Next 100 • With the facility soon to celebrate its’ 100th birthday and plans to rezone the district around the terminal offering a rare opportunity to change the City’s skyline, three prestigious architectural firms presented their vision for both GSC and the surrounding area. • All spoke to the need for an improved pedestrian experience; taking their visions both above ground and below ground. • The challenge in balancing private developer interests with urban interests, and consumer needs cannot be under-stated. • And, I learned a new phrase during this presentation: “making the urban fabric more permeable”. Here comes the Jetsons Age! Kudos to the MAS Summit team for a wonderful event—you mastered the content, the logistics and so much more. So much wonderful food for further thought and discussion! Join the discussion #SummitNYC