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Karen Brennan-Holton Joins the Workforce Institute at Kronos

I’m pleased to announce that Karen Brennan-Holton has joined us as a board member. Karen is a Senior Executive in Accenture’s HR and Talent Management Service Line. She has been with Accenture for 16 years and has spent the past eight years focused on Workforce Management and HR projects.  Her primary clients are in the Utilities Industry but she supports all other industries.   She is the Time and Labor Practice lead and manages sales and projects in this space.  As the practice lead she helps develop assets that teams can use to jump-start projects and increase delivery quality.   She is also the Co-lead for the Payroll and Time and Labor community of practice (COP) .  The COP brings global practioners together on a regular basis to share assets, deliver training and share leading practices across Accenture.   In addition to her client work, Karen is the North American Resources Inclusion and Diversity Lead, as well as the Program lead for the T&OP Women’s Executive Sponsorship program.  This year Karen was one of 25 women invited to join the Accenture Management Consulting Women’s Business Board,.  Karen has a BA/BS from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Florida State University.

Are We Wired to Complain?

Today’s guest blog is from Ryan Robinson, an I/O Psychologist at Kronos.  He writes about the well known phenomenon of bad customer service driving much more publicity than does good service. (If you want to see a huge viral example of a customer complaint – over 9 million views and growing- check out United Breaks Guitars.)

As an I/O psychologist, and more specifically someone who designs assessments to identify strong service employees, I have become particularly attuned to the service I receive. For example, I recently shopped for a gift for my wife and was having a difficult time making a decision about what to get her. One of the store’s employees could see that I was having a difficult time and so she approached me and asked if she could help. I told her my situation, and then she asked me a few questions about what my wife liked. After hearing my response, and thinking about what I said, she proceeded to walk me around the store and gather a number of items that she thought might work. Her suggestions were very helpful and I ended up purchasing more than I had intended to buy. As this interaction was happening, I found myself thinking “she’s doing a great job listening to me and is recommending some really good items” and “I appreciate that she is genuinely interested in helping me.” I walked away from the store happy with what I bought and pleased with the service I received. In fact, I was so pleased with my experience that I mentioned it to a couple of friends, and ultimately to my spouse. I have since bought additional items from this store, and it’s possible I have influenced others to do the same.

In thinking about this interaction however, I have come to the sad realization that this is one of the few very positive service experiences that I can recall. I can though, very quickly, recall about a dozen recent negative experiences. For example, I recently had to take my cell phone back for the 2nd time. They had replaced my phone the last time with a refurbished model, and now my replacement was broken.  When I explained the situation to the employee who was helping me, he looked at the serial number on the phone, gave me a puzzled look and said “this is not a refurbished phone.” After trying to explain it to him again, I became frustrated as he clearly didn’t believe me and felt like I didn’t know what I was talking about. Unfortunately, this set the tone for the entire interaction, which needless to say was not a pleasant one. I left the store with my new phone and made a call to make sure it was working correctly. The first thing I talked about was my negative experience in the store.

In thinking about this negative encounter, I realized I could easily write about a number of poor service experiences I have had. But realizing this made me think about why it is so easy for me to recall negative service experiences.  Have I really not had many positive customer service encounters? Have I been too hard on the employees that I felt were not doing a good job? Have I just come to expect great service as the norm, and thus don’t recognize it for what it is? And maybe most importantly, am I the only one who does this, or do we all pay more attention to negative information?

Of course, as a psychologist, I had to do some digging to see if I could understand why it was so easy for me to focus on these negative experiences. I started by thinking back to my schooling and remembered reading some research that suggests we are biologically programmed to pay more attention to negative information. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes some sense as survival depends on our ability to detect danger and respond appropriately. And while hopefully a negative customer service experience is not a “survival” situation, it does make sense that consumers may pay greater attention to when things go wrong as we are more tuned in to negative information. Similarly, positive experiences may not seem extraordinarily positive or noteworthy to us as they don’t provoke as strong a reaction.

This got me thinking then, do people tend to share negative service experiences with others more than positive ones?  So, I took to the web in search of stories of good and poor service. I was pleased to find that other bloggers do share their experiences and opinions about good service such as this piece from the New York Times ( or this one about a positive banking experience (  But in general it seems that the focus of positive customer service blogs is about techniques for improvement instead of consumers’ examples.  On the other hand, I easily located a number of sites where customers have detailed the poor quality of service they have experienced.

So where am I going with all this you might ask? The key factor in all of this for me is that customer service matters, and that consumers are clearly talking about their experiences. In turn, these encounters can have a huge impact on those who read about them. This only serves to highlight the importance of staffing your workforce with people who understand the importance of good service and do everything they can to make sure their customers are happy.  On a personal note, I wish that more consumers would take the time to let others know who did a great job of meeting their needs. Do any of you know where you can get great service? Do you notice that you are more aware of negative service experiences?

A New Frontier for Talent Management?

Today’s guest blog post is courtesy of our board member, David Creelman.

It’s been more than a decade since the ‘war for talent’ brought talent management to the attention of CEOs. There is now widespread buy-in that talent matters and HR has made great progress in introducing talent management systems and processes. So what’s next? Maybe we need to stop acting as though talent only matters for salaried work. Maybe talent management for hourly workers is the next frontier.

Talent management for hourly workers is an area that tingles with excitement. We are now looking at a very large population of workers that has not received much attention. I remember an Australian business prof telling me that her decision to study the work of truckers had met with disdain from her colleagues. If thoughtful management professors in egalitarian Australia think hourly workers are not worthy of attention then no doubt that blind spot extends to many organizations around the world. Whenever you have an unexamined area of business there is the potential for substantial improvement; talent management for hourly workers is one such area.

It’s not just the magnitude of the opportunity that makes talent management for hourly workers exciting, it is the intellectual challenge. Talent management for hourly workers won’t be just a simple extension of what was done for salaried employees. Take for example performance management. In many hourly jobs turnover is so high that an annual performance review will never happen for the bulk of employees. Performance management becomes more a matter of finding a profile (or profiles) of successful employees and feeding that back to the talent acquisition system….and that talent acquisition system, depending on the type of hourly work, may have little to do with sorting resumes.

With hourly workers we have the numbers to get really good metrics and so analytics will play a greater role here than in the salaried workforce. Furthermore you may not find expertise in the usual places. We saw many talent management vendors spring from roots in recruitment software but with the hourly workers it will be the workforce management software vendors who have depth of experience. Look for some interesting offerings as the big players in the traditional talent management space aim to move into hourly talent management and come up against workforce management solutions which have gone beyond managing transactions to providing true talent management.

What should you do? Talk to the heads of business units with the biggest hourly workforces. Test their interest in the idea of bringing talent management to their workers. I bet you’ll find an untapped thirst for applying the talent mindset to this critical group of employees.