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Leadership & Organization Blog

Short and snackable insights on talent management, organizational design, agility, culture, change management, HR analytics and technology, leadership, and merger management from our experienced partners at the forefront of today’s trends.

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Never hire leaders based on word of mouth

It took more than a year to find the right candidate to fill the newly-created position of Chief People and Culture Officer (formerly the Head of Human Resources) for a major financial firm. The firm believed their industry would be reshaped and disrupted in the future. Succeeding in this future would require people with a different skillset – one that is adaptable and able to make a difference regardless of the context. They wanted their Chief People Officer to signal this change, both in ...

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3 critical steps to improve hiring

A national sales organization approached McKinsey with a talent problem. With record low unemployment and higher rates of attrition among its sales people, the organization was struggling to maintain its desired pace of growth while still making high-quality hires. While many organizations often find it quicker and easier to simply add more assessments to the hiring process, the client here wanted a more objective and data-driven approach—one that begins with a clear definition and measure ...

How to clearly connect your top talent to value

As we facilitated the fifth weekly meeting to identify our client’s top talent prospects, it quickly became clear that the binders we printed, detailing available talent and critical future roles, were being entirely ignored by the executives gathered. Instead, our client gravitated immediately to the digital, interactive app we had just introduced into the meetings. The new app, called TalentMatch and developed by McKinsey, took center stage. This unique visualization technology brought ...

More than work-life balance, focus on your energy

How do you ensure work-life balance? I heard it a lot after my third child was born, and I hate this familiar question. It implies that work is an energy drainer and life an energy restorer. We spend a third of our time at work and many things there energize us, while plenty of things at home deplete us (like getting children to bed). The idea that we need “work-life balance” to stay motivated is too simplistic. The idea that we need “work-life balance” to stay motivated ...

Why defining leadership is imperative

Ask any five management experts what makes a good leader, and chances are you will get six answers: Aspiration. Inspiration. Imagination. Creativity. Authenticity. Integrity. It’s time for a reality check. While there’s no one-word answer to the leadership question, we have identified the stepping stones that enable organizations to develop more effective leadership across the organization. To pinpoint them, we looked at the major schools of leadership, including traits-based ...

Celebrate mindsets that value the customer AND the employee

Admit it. You (and most flyers) don’t really listen intently to the airline flight attendant’s safety demonstration before takeoff. That can prove dangerous, of course, when a problem develops on a flight. But one airline’s flight attendant demonstrated how to get passengers’ attention to grasp the safety message. Employing an olden recording with a Mad Men-style tone, the attendant mouthed its words flawlessly while walking up and down the aisle, gesturing spiritedly ...

7 crucial steps to drive effective learning in your organization

Mention “learning” and “measurement” in the same sentence and it may evoke flashbacks to sharpening your No. 2 pencils in preparation for standardized tests. The good news is that measurement in learning is no longer a distinction between correct and incorrect answers, but rather a process designed to measure and improve engagement and effectiveness. Today, learning measurement involves collecting data from multiple sources—online course activity, surveys, human ...

Master these mindsets to enchant customers

Delighted customers. They drive powerful results and are integral to growth for more and more companies. But the bar to meet—and even better, exceed—customer expectations continues to rise along with the potential for increased speed and personalized service, provided by advances in technology as well as rapid sociological and economic shifts. Additionally, social media is an added challenge, as any displeasure appears online instantly—and that spells reputational damage that is hard to walk ...

Avoid leadership blind spots by asking the crowd

It is no secret that leaders have blind spots. Like the blind men trying to understand the elephant, leadership teams frequently have a limited and biased view of what happens in an organization. Despite growing evidence and appreciation for the importance of good decision-making, all too often leadership base multimillion-dollar decisions on what they see, rather than a more complete and accurate picture. This is particularly prevalent when talking about the traditional ‘soft stuff’ ...

3 reasons why organizations make bad hiring decisions

A leading fast food chain had a problem. Customers were unhappy with the service they were receiving from frontline employees; service was slow and painful. Customers began taking their money elsewhere, resulting in declining revenue. Fortunately, there is a happy ending to this story. McKinsey’s People Analytics team quickly identified that the crux of the problem laid with its people. By leveraging insights into what characteristics make for good employees, they were able to revamp their ...

Don’t stress out: how to build long-term resilience

Imagine that you’re about to present to the executive board on the progress of a large-scale transformation. Although you’ve worked for many long nights to develop a compelling presentation, your stomach starts churning as soon as you enter the boardroom. Once in front of the board, you accidentally tip over a glass of water. Then, a few minutes in, the CFO asks you how much money this transformation will save the company. You have already had a few difficult conversations with this ...

Matching the right talent to the right roles

A healthcare organization going through a massive transformation had to assess and consider more than 2,000 high-potential employees for more than 100 critical positions. By identifying the 45 most critical value-adding roles and defining markers for success supported by people analytics, it was able to build a unique competency model tailored toward its values. For large enterprises that must match many employees to new roles, properly realigning talent to available and high-value positions ...

Hiring from unlikely sources as the talent pool shrinks

In today’s tight labor market, organizations are vying to fill open positions as the U.S. unemployment rate is at record lows. Increasingly, companies are turning to unexpected sources, such as ex-convicts, many never considered before for hard-to-fill jobs. Those with a prior criminal record, for instance, are being hired by some companies, such as Midwest manufacturers and 175-plus companies that have signed up at jobsforfelonshub.com. Others are lessening drug history requirements or ...

A small nudge to create stunning team results

Could you boost your team’s creative thinking just by passing around warm mugs of tea? Responsible use of “nudges” – subtle interventions that guide choices without restricting them – can be the key to opening up creativity, innovation and great performance levels to individuals and ultimately organizations. We set up these ideas in two recent blog posts (here and here) about the technique of nudging to influence behavior and propel action. To demonstrate how subtle ...

Understanding the role of analytics in modern baseball

Baseball, more than any other sport, is a game of tradition and one that is notoriously resistant to change. Yet in the past 15 years, advanced analytics have assumed a central role in every front office. As the Houston Astros complete another 100-win season, the team’s General Manager, Jeff Luhnow – a former McKinsey consultant and the man behind the 2017 World Series Champions – explains how analytics is dramatically changing America’s pastime. Baseball, of course, is a ...