or giving performance reviews, but the issue
is they’re likely no better at giving and
receiving needed coaching and performance
feedback,” said Sabapathy. “Now
that we’ve renamed it, leaders are no better
equipped to deliver those necessary
skills to boost performance than they were
at doing performance reviews. How does
HR now equip managers to do this on a
more ongoing basis, and with more development
Technology might offer a few solutions.
David Lahey, founder and
president of Predictive Success and
author of Predicting Success: Evidence-
Based Strategies to Hire the Right People
and Build the Best Team, points out that
GE has begun using a new performance
“It allows managers and co-workers
to give people feedback in real time,” said
Lahey. “An employee might ask, ‘How did
I do in that meeting?’ and they might receive
a smile icon, a positive word or two
or a constructive comment. I think tools
like this are the future.”
Technology can also help managers
gain a deeper understanding of their employees,
helping them communicate more
easily and effectively.
“There are a whole host of behavioural
traits that should be woven into counseling
on demand or performance reviews,”
said Lahey. “That’s where personality
tests can help. What’s in that employee’s
DNA? Is she going to want a lot of detail?
Is she some who is natively proactive?
That level of detail can help a manager
tailor how and what to say to help employees
Much like the annual performance review,
the office cubicle is beginning to seem like
an old-fashioned idea.
Open-concept offices are having more
than a moment, driven mainly by the theory
that a lack of walls promotes better
connection, collaboration and cross-functional
teamwork. Some organizations even
go as far as “hoteling,” where workers have
no assigned desks and are encouraged to
sit in different locations each day. Soaring
real estate prices are adding fuel to the fire,
too, making the reduction of square footage
a fiscal necessity.
“I see it as a very positive trend,” said
Lahey. “It can create unique areas where
people can share and collaborate. It can
also create a sense of urgency – if you’re
not producing, there’s no chair to come
Not everyone is convinced, however.
In 2011, organizational psychologist
Matthew Davis published a review of
more than 100 studies about office environments.
He discovered that while
open-plan spaces did encourage a general
sense of organizational mission and
infused workspaces with an innovative
feel, they also came with a long list of
negatives, including reduced productivity
and reduced creativity. Measured
against workers in traditional office
spaces, employees felt more stress, endured
more interruptions and were less
Since the open-concept office is essentially
a done deal in most workplaces
– a recent survey by the International
Facilities Management Association reports
70 per cent of American employees
work in open-concept spaces – the next
innovation will be about finding ways to
make the spaces do what designers hoped
“Personally, I think they’re fantastic for
collaboration and for innovation,” said
Davey. “But they have to be done well.”
Davey advises hiring a designer who
understands the flow of a workspace and
knows what trouble spots to watch for.
White noise is also must, she says, to encourage
conversation (extreme quiet keeps
people from talking at all) but also to muffle
Even the most social and extroverted
worker needs to hunker down and have
uninterrupted work time, on occasion.
“You’ll need to set up some sort of signal
that allows an employee tell others
that their ‘door’ is closed,” said Davey, and
they’d like to work without interruptions.
Private spaces, too, like conference offices
or phone rooms, are essential elements of
an open-concept space for personal calls,
meetings and difficult conversations.
Telecommuting, when it’s a viable option,
pairs well with this office design, says
“There are days when you want to be
collaborative, and there are days when you
want to have time to think and not have
those kinds of distractions,” she said.
Another plus of an open-concept office:
it’s easier to adapt to new setups down the
“We no longer have situations where for
five years, the exact same configuration is
going to work,” said Davey. “So organizations
need to consider how they can keep
things flexible, on the fly.”
The emphasis on agility is one factor
behind the growth in the number of contractors,
freelancers and other non full
time, permanent workers in the workforce.
The ability to remain flexible – to quickly
expand a team to work on a project, and
then dismantle the team once their project
is complete, from any place at any time –
makes practical and financial sense.
Retailers, for example, might bring in
extra workers during the holidays. There’s
also agile hiring, where an organization
might bring in specialists to work just a
few hours, as necessary.
“Holt Renfrew, for example, hires fashion
specialists who are experts at what
they do, but don’t need to work a 50 or 60
hour week,” said Lahey. “This works for the
employee and it works for the company to
keep the costs down.”
In cases where organizations have increased
their part-time headcount, it may
simply reflect a mutually beneficial relationship
with older workers.
“An increase in part-time workers will
be something we’ll continue to see, and
that could become the choice of some
older workers,” said Lahey. “These are
Baby Boomers who have enough money
to retire, but who have a strong work ethic
and are doing a second career because they
want to stay busy and engaged.”
How well the mix works can depend on
the intent and design behind the hiring.
“Many companies play games with
headcount and end up stringing temporary
workers along for years,” said Davey.
It may amount to a short-term benefits
cost savings, but there’s a downside.
“Organizations are losing out on all the
sense of belonging and the sense of culture.
If you tell people, ‘You aren’t one of
us,’ then you should expect them to behave
like they aren’t one of you.”
20 ❚ NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL