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Posts tagged ‘axsium group’

Going Global? Get a Translator

Today’s guest post is from our board member, Bob Clements and addresses the wisdom of engaging local expertise in the design and implementation of global workforce management systems.

In 1981, President Carter toured Japan and China shortly after leaving the White House.  During this tour, he was asked to speak at a small college in Japan.  Everybody at the college – professors, students and the students’ parents – was nervous when he arrived for his speech.  President Carter decided to put the audience at ease with a joke to start his speech.  He knew the joke wasn’t his funniest, but it was short which he felt was important when translating from English to Japanese.

When his speech started, he told his joke and waited for the translation.  To his surprise, the audience roared with laughter. People were literally falling out of their chairs, as the story goes.  President Carter said that it was the best response that he had ever had to a joke in his life.

After the speech, the President asked the translator how he told the joke, because while the joke was amusing, he was surprised by the reaction.  At first, the translator dodged the question, but finally, he admitted that he did not translate the joke.  Instead, he said to the audience, “President Carter just told a funny story.  Everyone must laugh.”  And they did.

When President Carter recalls this story, he quips how good it is to be the President.  However, when I hear the story, I see how important a good translator is.  In this case, the President’s translator did more than regurgitate language.  He translated culture and social norms.  He knew that the Japanese audience would not understand President Carter’s joke.  He also knew the Japanese would be polite and laugh if asked.  And they did.

In my job, it seems like every company I speak with, regardless of where they are headquartered, is talking about taking their workforce management system and/or processes into one or more new countries.  This may be driven by a strategic initiative to open operations in a new country, the result of an acquisition, or a desire to streamline operations and standardize on a single system or set of processes.

Regardless of what is driving the initiative, I’m always surprised by the lack of knowledge and awareness – dare I say, naiveté – most organizations have when it comes to making a global deployment successful.  Even organizations that have deployed systems and processes globally forget that when you start talking about workforce management – or just about any other human resource-related initiative – you are affecting the way people are scheduled and paid, and when you mess that up, people get really upset.

Making matters more challenging, the rules that govern how people are scheduled and paid can vary dramatically, not just by country, but by region, facility, department, and job.  Variation can even occur by individual.

You cannot succeed in this complex environment on your own.  You need a translator like the one President Carter had.  This isn’t just someone who can speak the language.  It’s someone who understands the culture, and the way that people at your company work in that country.  For many organizations, the translator may be a local HR representative or seasoned manager who knows the local workplace as well as the workforce and the rules that govern them.  Ideally, he or she is well known and respected by the workforce.

Your translator is a strategic part of bringing your workforce management initiative into a new country, not just some lackey there to push through a corporate initiative.  He or she should be identified and involved as part of the project team from its inception.  Early in the project, your translator helps identify cultural, legal and contractual requirements that need to be addressed.  Later in the project, he or she can be your feet on the ground to help introduce the new system or process.  He or she can be your eyes and ears to understand issues with adoption and help identify solutions to overcome such challenges.

Bob’s mention of Jimmy Carter reminds me of another one of his unintended bloopers. In a speech in Poland he said ‘I want to know the Polish people,’ which was translated into Polish as, ‘I want to have carnal knowledge of the Polish people.’

What unintended consequences have you experienced trying to do the right thing, but doing it the wrong way?

Retail Customer Service Still Counts

According to this recent study from the Axsium Group and Empathica, over 50% of North American retail shoppers do not feel that employees appear to be genuinely interested in serving them.  Eighty percent of respondents indicated a positive impact on their shopping experience when staff appear motivated and eager to serve them.  According to the study, “At one retail client, customers who were offered a helpful suggestion of an additional product to the initial product they were considering experienced higher rates of satisfaction and had a basket size 31 percent larger than those who did not receive a suggestion during their store visit.”

So what do retailers need to do differently to create a more engaging (and higher value) shopping experience for their customers?  The key finding of the aforementioned study is that well trained and engaged employees are the principal driver of customer experience and higher per customer spend.  Creating those well trained and engaged employees begins with hiring people who are interested in doing the jobs.  Their managers need the tools to onboard them, train them and coach them.  Providing them with flexible schedule options is another key driver to retaining them.

In this recent Stores story about JoS. A. Bank, Andrea Boling, vice president of human resources discusses the various ways in which Kronos has helped them improve not only the efficiency of their hiring process, but also improved the job fit of the candidates they hire.  She cites the following returns on their implementation of the Kronos Workforce Talent Acquisition solution:

  • 27 percent reduction in turnover of retail employees
  • Increased employee productivity
  • A one- to three-day reduction in time-to-hire
  • Average sales associate tenure rose from 2.2 years to 3.4 years
  • Store managers who had been with the company for less than a year dropped from 22.2 percent to 16.9 percent
  • Net sales during this period increased 23.3 percent

I recently blogged about highs and lows in my recent retail experiences.  What are your stories from the trenches?

Put Down the Technology and Step Away from the Keyboard

Our latest whitepaper, Empowering the Hourly Workforce Through Enterprise Workforce Management, comes to us courtesy of our board member Tim Lett of the Axsium Group.   Tim addresses the importance of engaging employees as part of the implementation and ongoing use of workforce management technology.

Tim’s company helps organizations deploy a wide range of workforce management technology solutions.  While the products they work with may vary, the time tested advice Tim offers is consistent.  Take the time to scope your requirements fully and involve representatives of the relevant stakeholders in your project to ensure project success.  Here are a few tips:

  • Involve representatives of the end user community in your pre-implementation requirements gathering.  Incorporate returns related to employee empowerment and self service in the business case for the project.
  • You need to have an executive sponsor with sufficient authority to push a project through the normal obstacles to any change effort.  To make that sponsorship work, you need to arm that executive with communications support to ensure that all stakeholders are informed and persuaded to participate and cooperate throughout an implementation project.
  • Establish a balanced scorecard of relevant metrics that will be used to measure progress and success over time.
  • There is no such thing as over communication during a major change effort.

Read the whitepaper and listen to a podcast of my discussion with Tim to learn more.

> Listen to the Podcast with Tim Lett of the Axsium Group