Excellence is a Habit, Not an Act

A couple of weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of attending my first Nerd Nite here in Austin. For those of you who – like me – are not super hip on what’s cool these days, Nerd Nite is a monthly event held in more than 75 cities across the globe during which several folks speak on various topics across all disciplines. Little did I know that when they say “topics across all disciplines” they really mean all disciplines. For this particular evening, presentations ranged from poisoning in 17th century France to sound engineering in video games. It was fascinating!

In one session, the speaker argued that unconscious bias (gender bias in this case) could only be overcome through habitually removing opportunities for unconscious bias to influence decision-making (e.g., blind reviews). With diversity hiring so prominent in talent acquisition leaders’ to-do lists these days, I found this concept to be especially relevant. But what really grabbed my attention was the speaker’s closing thoughts, which included a quote from Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

With Brandon Hall Group’s HCM Excellence Conference Wednesday through Friday – and the 2015 Excellence Awards applications now open – these words rang especially true.

Every year, we receive hundreds of applications from organizations around the world that are trying to improve their ability to acquire, develop, reward, and retain talent. When review time comes around, and I’m reading over applications for talent acquisition awards, I’m always impressed by the thought that goes into design and delivery of new sourcing, assessment, and onboarding initiatives. But more often than not, these programs are less than a year old – hardly in place long enough to have real and meaningful impact on an organization’s ability to attract, engage, and hire top-drawer talent.

I’ve talked about our industry’s need to get past anecdotal ROI before, and I’m excited at the continued momentum analytics and reports tools are getting in the vendor landscape. All the same, I often worry at the sustainability of these programs. Our awards program gives considerable weight to those applicants whose programs have had the greatest tangible (read: measurable) impact on the organization – as it should.

If you agree with Aristotle, and believe that excellence is a habit, not an act (and I do), these organizations’ work has only just begun. To be truly excellent, success must be sustainable. I find that sustainability relies on a measurement model that goes beyond gathering stakeholder testimonials. While it may not be the sexiest way to go about it, our research shows that setting clear goals, identifying relevant KPIs, and monitoring associated metrics is a habit of excellent organizations.

This week, we’ll be honoring our awards winners in Fort Lauderdale – and featuring their stories of success in every breakout session from onboarding to leadership development. My challenge to those in attendance (and those at home) is to rethink excellence and high-performance HCM – not as a PR initiative, but as an opportunity to drive real and lasting change in your organization. I think the industry would be better for it.

Kyle Lagunas, Talent Acquisition Analyst,
Brandon Hall Group

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