Tag Archives: human capital

Business Isn’t Just A Numbers Game

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STRATFOR Worldview” By Joel Trammell

Business is only partially a numbers game. More and more, it’s a people game, and the best leaders of the future will act accordingly.

Look no further than Wells Fargo’s notorious 2016 scandal in which employees created over 2 million fake customer accounts in order to game the bank’s incentive structure.


“When I started my first business over 25 years ago, I would’ve told you that business is a numbers game. As a degreed engineer whose father was a college professor, I was exposed to many mathematical concepts and analytical approaches. I thought all you had to do in business was gather the data, apply the math, and voila! There was the answer.

After 25 years of running companies, I will tell you that numbers are mostly just the result of a bunch of little actions people take every day in your company. Business is about people. And most business problems are people problems. Improving a business is therefore accomplished not by looking at numbers but by changing the behavior of people. And that is very hard. My wife moved the drawer where we keep the utensils in our kitchen over a year ago, and I still sometimes reach in the wrong drawer. No wonder it’s such a difficult task to make large-scale changes across an entire organization.

Matt Blumberg, the founder and CEO of Return Path, uses a great metaphor for this concept. He describes knowing all the detailed numbers of the business as the ability to read a map. Knowing how to actually manage human behavior and drive is something different and just as important — it’s like being able to drive the car. Writes Blumberg, “Being right about what roads to take is a lot less important than actually getting yourself to the destination safely and in a timely manner.”

For leaders, especially the technical and left-brained among us, it can take years to grasp this truth. Creating a massive spreadsheet and crunching all the numbers can give us a comforting sense of being in control. But no matter how neat your numbers-driven solution is, people are messy. If the leader can’t drive the car — i.e., can’t lead, manage, and coach people toward the solution — what’s the point? In my experience, it’s almost always on this people side of things that plans break down and strategies go unexecuted.

Even worse, divorcing numbers from people can even lead to catastrophe.  Wells Fargo CEO often repeated the mantra “eight is great,” meaning that employees should strive to sell each customer eight Wells products. For Stumpf and the creators of the incentive structure, this program, encapsulated in a number, must have seemed a logical way to grow revenue. But they didn’t factor in the human side of things. They failed to ensure that this program was positively changing employee behavior on the ground.

Certainly, knowing the numbers and doing quantitative analysis is — and will always be — an essential component of running a business. But especially in the era of knowledge work, leaders must factor in the more nebulous, hard-to-control aspect of managing human behavior. As management theorist Douglas McGregor told us decades ago in his brilliant book, The Human Side of Enterprise, “The ingenuity of the average worker is sufficient to outwit any system of controls devised by management.” In other words, even the smartest numbers-centered plan can be derailed if it doesn’t mesh with human actions and motives.

What does this mean for executives? It means, first and foremost, ensuring that your organization has managers up, down, and across the organization who understand the CEO’s goals and have the influence required to encourage their employees to actively support those goals. With that powerful combination —having the map and being able to drive — your business is far more likely to achieve its objectives.”



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Joel Trammell

Founder and CEO of Khorus Software, Joel Trammell has spent decades as a startup launcher. He focuses on working with current and future CEO’s to maximize their performance.

Artificial Intelligence And The Potential To Replace The Federal Work Force

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FEDERAL NEWS NETWORK” By Permission – Jeff Neal

Employees will need new skills. OK. Got that. What new skills will they need? Are we talking about the skills of the tech folks in the agency? Yes. Are we talking about the people who will use the tech? Yes.

Are we talking about the agency’s customers? Yes. So we are talking about the potential retraining of the bulk of the federal workforce over a period of years.


“It is hard to avoid seeing articles and studies that talk about artificial intelligence (AI) and how it will provide many benefits and open the door to countless risks. A recent two-part Partnership for Public Service report — “More Than Meets AI” — talked about steps agencies should take to communicate with their employees, ensure they have the right skills, minimize risk and build confidence in systems.

All of those are good things to think about. It is true that the potential for AI is so far-reaching that it will certainly change how employees work, present risks we are only beginning to understand and change how the American people interact with the government. The problem with a lot of what I am reading is that it does not take the promise of AI and present concrete examples of how something we all are used to seeing and experiencing will change.

We have retrained people before. When we started moving from paper to mainframe-based systems, we trained employees how to use the dumb terminals that started appearing in their offices. When the first personal computers started appearing in offices, we taught people how to use them, found ways to use the capabilities of the technology and then gradually transformed the way everyone works.

The transformation in those days was slow and mostly predictable. It was a move from paper and pencil to digital, but much of the work replicated what was already being done. While the change was predictable, it was also far-reaching. As I wrote in October last year, during the 1950s, the federal government employed more than a million clerks. Those jobs were mostly automated out of existence. By 2014, the number was down to 123,000. Now the number is down to 106,000.

The fact that we could replace 900,000 jobs and not have tremendous disruption is partly because it was a gradual transformation, partly because it affected the lowest graded jobs where turnover was traditionally high, and partly because it changed the nature of how the most repetitive tasks were done. But it did not change the fundamental work being done, as much as we might think.

The federal government was part of a much larger move to an economy based on knowledge work. Knowledge workers derive their economic value from the knowledge they bring to the table. Clerical work, much like trade and craft work, brought value mostly because of the labor the employees carry out, not their technical and programmatic skills. As those jobs disappeared, they were replaced with people whose knowledge was their contribution.

That transformation is the reason I have said for a long time that the federal government is actually much larger as a percentage of the population than it was in the 1950s. In 2014, I wrote a post that showed how that happened. At the time, we had 183 U.S. residents for every nonclerical federal employee. In the 1950s, the number was one for every 503 residents.

The change in the federal workforce that was driven by the increased use of technology was enabled by increased government spending and the fact that the number of federal employees appeared to remain relatively constant. In inflation-adjusted dollars, federal spending is almost five times as much per U.S. resident as it was in the 1950s.        Subscribe to Federal News Network’s Morning Federal Report and In Case You Missed It newsletters for the latest federal workforce news.

When we experience the next wave of AI-enabled changes, can we expect the same thing to happen? Is it likely that we will continue to see federal spending increase at the rate it has in the past 60 years? Will large numbers of federal jobs be replaced with technology, only to reappear in another form? I think the answers to those questions are going to drive federal agency priorities for years to come.

Will federal spending increase? If the recent spending agreement is any measure, absolutely. The last big attempt by Congress to put itself on a fiscal diet was sequestration. Remember that? They put automatic cuts in place so they could force themselves to stop spending. Then they spent trillions. Spending kept going up because politicians will spend money to get votes.

A free-spending Congress means we are likely to see the dollars continue to flow. The fact that 85% of federal jobs are not in the National Capital Region means they are not going to want to see real reductions in the number of federal jobs. So it is safe to predict that the number of federal workers is going to continue to hover around two million. Add the flowing money, desire to protect jobs in congressional districts and the emerging wave of AI, and the result will be a radically transformed federal workplace. The difference this time is that the pace of advances in technology is increasing and the capabilities we will see from AI will replace knowledge workers to a degree we have not seen before.

This post is the first of a series that will look at the impact of AI. Rather than addressing it in broad terms, future posts will take a look at one type of federal job and examine how the work is performed today and what we can expect as technology develops. I will also make some recommendations on how that transition can come about and what will happen to the employees.

I have more than 40 years of experience in human resources, so that is the occupation I will examine. The changes we can expect in HR and how the government can make those changes will translate to other types of work as well. The next post in this series will be in two weeks.”


Jeff Neal is a senior vice president for ICF and founder of the blog, ChiefHRO.com. Before coming to ICF, Neal was the chief human capital officer at the Homeland Security Department and the chief human resources officer at the Defense Logistics Agency.

Five Winning Strategies For Attracting Top Talent



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“By “walking the walk” of your brand promise and ensuring that your firm’s expertise and culture are more visible, you will consistently attract the highly qualified professionals.

Below are strategies that high-growth firms are pursuing to gain a competitive advantage in their recruiting and build their teams with the best talent.”

“1. Offer a Brand that Employees Will Love

“You know how important your firm’s brand is in conveying your strengths and differentiators to clients and prospects. But have you thought about what your brand communicates to the top professionals in your field who might join your firm? While there are many firms with outstanding reputations, the highest-growing firms tend to take their brands to another level. They seek to “live their brand” by creating cultures that deliver on their brand promise. Just as a strong brand attracts top quality clients, it will also have the same effect on top quality professionals, who are increasingly selective and want to join a firm whose reputation makes them proud.

2. Increase Your Firm’s Visibility

The reputation of your firm is one facet of its brand, but without visibility, it’s not enough to attract the best talent. Your firm must also have high visibility in your market place, and definitely must not be anyone’s “best kept secret.” The fewer people who know about your firm, the smaller your pool of possible clients and employees. To avoid that, you must make the effort needed to be visible — especially online. Why online? Because each year, more and more firms are discovered and vetted online, and this trend is here to stay. As a result, you need not only a professional website, but must also be active on the most widely-used social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Social media offers a quick way to increase your firm’s visibility so that prospective employees can easily learn more about your firm’s people, expertise, and culture.

3. Prove Your Expertise

Consider which strengths and traits you want your firm and its professionals to be recognized for. According to research my firm recently did on buying behavior, firms and professionals that have a specific niche, and produce educational content about that niche, are more likely to be seen as experts. They are also more often preferred over their less differentiated competitors. The most effective way to showcase your focused expertise is to speak and write widely on a relatively narrow array of issues, and in the process, become the recognized experts on those issues. The same dynamic is as true for prospective employees as it is for prospective clients: experts attract qualified professionals who desire to work with the best.

4. Embrace Awards and Recognition

You can invest a lot of time and effort in describing all your firm’s greatest attributes, but when others say it for you, it’s far more powerful. Being awarded and recognized by reputable organizations or publications will boost your firm’s reputation and Visible Expertise in ways that are far more compelling than word-of-mouth. This type of tangible and credible recognition from independent parties will signal to both prospective clients and employees that your firm’s claims and reputation are the genuine article. Rather than just saying what you think people want to hear, you’re actually taking the steps needed to be recognized for your work from people and groups outside of your firm.

5. Publicize Your Culture

For prospective employees, your internal brand is just as important as your external brand. It addresses prospects’ key questions: What is working at your firm like? What do your employees like about the experience, and what are the key benefits? Does their experience align with your external messages? If you are living up to your firm’s external brand and delivering on its promise, it’s likely that your employees will feel proud of their role in the firm, and will help spread the word, which will in turn attract additional talent. Encourage staff members to post write-ups about their experience on workplace sites such as Glassdoor.com. It’s also effective to dedicate a part of your website to convey, in words and pictures, your attractive work environment.”



Elizabeth Harr

Elizabeth Harr is a partner at Hinge, [http://www.hingemarketing.com/] a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Elizabeth is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, brand building, and communications. She is the coauthor of Inside the Buyer’s Brain, How Buyers Buy: Technology Services Edition; and Online Marketing for Professional Services: Technology Services Edition.

It’s called human capital for a reason


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“……..there is a clear and growing trend in government to assume, and treat, professional services company employees as a commoditized product, rather than as the critical asset they are. This demeans the people, inhibits companies from being able to invest in excellence, and ultimately will further distance the government from the best and the brightest.  After all, it’s called human capital for a reason.

One agency has a multiple award contract through which it accesses highly specialized personnel. It then requires all awardees to put all of their personnel into a common, open “pool,” from which the winning companies then have to bid for specific people to put on specific task orders, including those that are, or were, their own employees.

That’s right. It’s as if the Nationals were playing the Orioles in the World Series, but Major League Baseball required that both teams then put all of their players into a common “free agent” pool, bid for specific individuals, and then play the series.

What’s entirely missing from the equation, of course, is that the competition for talent, and the quality of talent offered by each bidder, was the primary competitive factor in the contract award. The talent the companies brought to the contract is their primary asset. Who is the government to then demand that they free up their people for competitors?

The companies involved went along with the competition thinking that the “pooling” would not be a big deal. They were wrong. But so too, from the get go, was the agency, which through its actions demonstrated an abject lack of appreciation for the marketplace.

In another example, a mid-tier company learned that their customer was not going to exercise their option on a multiple-award contract and was, instead, shifting the work to a different, single award, small business contract (itself worth a discussion).

But what happened next was even worse.

The contracting officer began contacting each of the company’s employees, many of whom are very highly compensated, PhD-level specialists, requesting their resumes so they could be transferred to the employ of the intended new contract holder.

While many of the employees might well opt, on their own, to make such a move, how does government justify directly interfering in a company’s internal personnel matters? That’s entirely inappropriate. It is up to the incumbent company and the incoming contractor to compete for talent.

That’s a tough enough battle without the government stepping in where it has no right or place.

We saw this dynamic play out routinely during the Defense Department insourcing activities a few years ago. At the time we suggested to the department, and to Congress, that there ought to be a two-way prohibition on such direct employee solicitation similar to those that are the norm in the commercial sector.

Our proposal also included a prohibition on companies soliciting a government component’s employees to work on a contract for which the company was bidding at that same component. Some DoD officials scoffed at the idea and denied it was the norm in the private sector—which was quite a surprise to just about every company I know. Others just didn’t see it as a serious enough problem.”


Stan Soloway

About the Author

Stan Soloway is president and chief executive officer of the Professional Services Council.