Creating An ROI For Human Capital And Organizational Change Projects: Part 2

I was working at a company and asked to do several things. First was to recruit 100 engineers. That may not seem like a lot, but for every 100 people, we interviewed we had 1 person accept. So it took interviewing 1000 people to obtain 100 engineers. Part of that was because we were looking for a specific type of engineer – digital signal processing engineers. The company I worked for had gone through a series of hiring and layoff cycles, so they weren’t completely trusted by the local community as being a stable place to work. Many of those types of engineers had left southern California to go to northern California to pursue work – and for larger salaries and more stable positions.

Examining What Was Important to The Employees Was the Key

We had lost a large number of engineers and some accounts were in trouble. So the need to recruit quickly was key. Normally it could take us 3- 6 months to recruit these type of engineers. I had been given a month. So I stepped up to the challenge. I thought, what would I want to experience to determine if I wanted to work for this company? I would want to hear from the leadership that they were dedicated to doing things differently. I would want to know that there were exciting career options in various categories and I would want to feel, touch and see the advanced technologies I would be getting a chance to work with and enhance my skill set so I would be more marketable in the future, both inside the company as well as if I decided to leave. I would want to get to talk to potential colleagues and potential bosses. I would want to get a sense of the culture and the environment I would be working in. And I’d like to meet people who were seeking the same or similar positions to what I was seeking – who would be these new people on-boarding with me?

The Answer? A Career Day With a Special Invite to Top Candidates

What I proposed was a career day. We took out an ad in the LA Times, inviting the best of the best to apply to our company and upon invitation, they would be invited to come to the career day, hear from our leadership about our company and their future there, be interviewed by direct hiring managers for our 5 major divisions as well as tour booths staffed by some of our top engineers and business folks. In the booths, we demonstrated our “cool” technology – at least that which was not classified as top secret.

To pull this day off, I worked with our graphics department to create amazing ads, colorful booth content, onsite brochures and the personal invites sent to those that had sent in resumes and qualified to participate in the career day.

The Launch of the Career Fair

The day started with a group of engineers who began their career day journey with us by hearing from our top leadership. Then they got to tour 5 divisions, each with several booths where the top technology was being demonstrated. We tried our best to come up with really interesting, real-life demos that potential employees could get to touch and feel the technology = actually experience it. Then they were invited to interview with a hiring manager there on site. The hiring managers were given the ability to hire people on the spot (something we’d never done before.)

The Reaction of the Interviewees Was Fantastic

What was interesting was the feedback we collected on video as the employees left the career day. Most of them, after interviewing wanted to go back and hang-out in the tech booths or listen to more talks from our leadership. They commented that it was the best interviewing process they had ever experienced. What was even more gratifying was that the day not only had a positive effect on the interviews but also on the employees who helped put the day together. I had not seen the employees shine so brightly in a long time. It was clear they had a new found sense of pride in the work they were doing as well as for the company. We even captured their feedback on the video and put a compilation video together. Why the video? To help demonstrate the ROI.

Examining the ROI for the Career Day

The cost to develop the day and put it on was about $1,00,000, including the a portion of the salary of all people who participated in the project for various amounts of time, the graphics, the ads in the LA Times, the billboards off the 405 freeway, the booths, tanks we had onsite as part of the booths, etc… When we looked at the cost of recruiting one engineer in our typical process. HR had calculated that to be about $150,000. To obtain 100 engineers we would have had to interview 1,000 people at a cost of $150,000 and that would be equal to $15M. Most people would have considered those soft costs. But they still cost the company time and money. In this new process of interviewing, it cost about $2M. We were able to interview and hire over 100 engineers. The ROI?

$15M – $2M / $2M x 100 = 650%.

(Benefit of saving the regular cost of interviewing – Cost of the new interviewing process / Cost of the new interviewing process x 100 = ROI %.

What I Found Surprising

It wasn’t just that we were able to recruit so many great people quickly. Another aspect of this process was that we actually interviewed our own employees who staffed the event and created all the content to make it amazing. What they said on camera was they were truly proud of the place they worked. They felt a sense of pride they had not in years. I what I learned was that by engaging our own employees, making them part of the recruiting process in this event, it changed their attitude towards the company and their work. So not only were we able to hire all the engineers we needed, but we had boosted the internal company morale! It was a very exciting day for everyone. Something I will proud of for years to come!

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP, Innovation and Transformation Expeditions, Salesforce




ROI of Human Capital and Organizational Change Management: My Personal Story

I was working for a company that had found themselves in a situation where they had poor morale. Raises were few, partially because of the economy and as a result, people were working very hard and not feeling appreciated. HR came to me to ask what to do. As an early design-thinker, my reaction was always to ask the “customer.” In this case, the “customer” was our own employees. When I interviewed them, I asked them what they wished they had- essentially what was missing? I found that the answers were very surprising. They didn’t feel appreciated. They didn’t feel they were growing and expanding their skills. They didn’t feel like they had a future or that the future looked bright or that they had a hand in creating that future. Or that they even mattered.

The Root Cause of Employee Dissatisfaction

I found that in the appraisal process, once the employee heard they were not getting raise, they shut down. So pretty, much after the first few minutes of the appraisal, they stopped actively participating. So when it got to the part where they were going through their goals for the next year, they had stopped engaging and were only going through the motions.

Because their future goals and engagement to their jobs and their careers was key to being a top company, I came up with the idea of separating the employee appraisal process from the employee development process. And set out to design an employee development process where employees could examine, through goal setting practices, personal-professional goals that would enhance their skill set and make them more valuable to the company, but also have a personal sense of accomplishment and growth.

The Cost of Low Employee Morale?

The cost? With my team, we estimated about $6M for 60,000 employees. I went to the executive leadership meeting and presented my proposal. There was a lukewarm reception, that is… until I got to the cost. At $6M I was laughed at and told to sit down. That was the longest meeting I have ever been in. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Trying my best to hold back the tears, I just sat there feeling awful.

I went home that night and I did cry. I had interviewed the “customer” figured out what was missing and proposed the solutions. But what I didn’t do is calculate the return on the investment (ROI.) This was very early in my career and this experience taught me the valuable lesson of creating the business value or business case of whatever it was I wanted to propose. The lesson served me well because once I learned to do this, I always got my funding.

Calculating the Cost of Low Employee Morale and Attrition

So you might be wondering how did I calculate the ROI of employee development? Isn’t that a soft skill or a soft benefit? My grandpa had taught me that any time there is value, there is a financial benefit. You just had to find the numbers. So the next day, after a good night’s sleep, I went o HR and asked them, “How much does it take to hire this type of engineer – a digital signal processing engineer?”

They said, combining the recruiting teams time, traveling to various universities, ads in the local papers, radio advertisements, (This was way before social media) reviewing incoming resumes, having the initial screening calls, and then interviewing with a number of the staff and the hiring managers, getting the engineer a secret clearance, etc… the cost was about $150,000 / engineer.

And then I asked the crowning question, “How many engineers did we lose in the last month?” HR said, “200.” And I saw the ROI. If we had lost just 40 people, then $150,000 x 40 would equal the $6M I was asking for. But in the last 3 months we had lost 200, so the cost of attrition just for 3 months was $150,000 x 200 = $30M.

So with the loss of 200 engineers, if I could retain half of them, 100 engineers, then the cost of attrition would only be $15M.

Calculating the Cost of Employee Attrition

The ROI = Benefit – Cost / Cost x 100 = % Return on the Investment

The benefit is the saving of the $15M in attrition costs. The cost is the cost of the program or $6M.

So to calculate the ROI…

Savings of $15M in attrition – Cost of the employee development program of $6M /Cost of the employee development program x 100

So the calculation looks like this:

$15M – $6M / $6M x 100 = 150 % ROI

The Defining Moment

So after pulling my self together and confident with my calculations, I asked for 5 minutes on the agenda. Of course, they were reluctant to give me any time. I got 2 minutes. So I went in with one slide. The slide with the ROI calculation. I said, “We are spending $30M in attrition and if we pay attention to why people are leaving and create a better culture so people feel that they matter, they are learning and growing and feel apart of something bigger than themselves, we can reduce that attrition. So let me walk you through the calculation….” And I did.

To my surprise, instead of sighs of ridiculousness and grumpiness, there was silence. I had hit upon something that no one had thought about. The cost of attrition. While is at first seemed like a “soft” cost, when it was laid out for them in black and white… even if I was off by 50% – we were still wasting the companies money on having people leave because we weren’t paying attention to what was important to them to feel loyal. Why go through all the time and expense to recruit these amazing people, only to push them away and have them go to our competitors, making our competitors smarter and stronger?

How Does This Story End?

Actually very well. I was given the money to develop the employee development program. I was very surprised to get so many emails and people stopping me in the hallways to tell me how much they appreciated what I had done. I didn’t do it for the accolades. I did it because I truly wanted to create an amazing place to work.

The lesson learned? If there is value to something, even if it feels like it is initially a “soft” cost, there is a way to express it in hard dollars in a way that executives can see change is needed. And this was my first experience in organizational change management!


VP, Salesforce, Innovation and Transformation Expeditions Center


Digital Transformation Projects Have an 84% Chance of Failure; Are You Ready to Failure or Succeed?

Would You Invest If You Knew the Investment Had a High Likelihood of Failure?

If I were to tell you that I had an investment opportunity for you and the probability of you making money was 16% or less, how likely would you be to invest in it? But if I told you that the investment opportunity had a 90% chance of returning your investment, might you be more likely to want to invest?

What’s interesting is that digital transformation is all around us. We can’t help but be impacted in our person lives, from smart phones, smart TVs, apps (think taxi’s vs. Lyft), Siri, Alexa and Google Home. In business, it’s clear that customers want to engage with business in digital and mobile channels. Businesses need to make the transition to be competitive and survive. Yet according to* and Bruce Rogers** who wrote Profitable Brilliance: How Professional Service Firms Become Thought Leaders, 84% of businesses undergoing digital transformation are likely to fail. 

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Having been at this game for a while, the statistics reminded me of stats from nearly 20 years ago when the topic was CRM and ERP. Though they are not exactly the same, they have many of the same elements. Digital transformation, innovation and CRM and ERP implementations are IT implementation of people, process and technology. What they have in common is the use of technology to make scalable processes that were once manual. The advantages among many, were higher productivity (cost savings) but also providing better customer-facing experiences (revenue generating.) Going back through my old papers about CRM and ERP failure rates,*** I saw many of the same type of stats predicting similar failure rates for digital transformation projects are being predicted today**** (and by many prominent groups, including IDC, Gartner Group and Forrester Research.)

Things that make you go hmmmm. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

When Will Organizational Change Management and Culture Change Be Taken Seriously?

The stats show since the late 1990’s – early 2000’s until now, when Culture Change (CC), Organizational Change Management (OCM) and Behavioral Change (BC) is missing from a project, there are issues, yet it’s still not “fashionable.” Perhaps the lack of fashionability is from an old paradigm stemming from the command and control type leadership that doesn’t deem people as an important aspect of the business transformation, whether its CRM, ERP or Digital Transformation. Perhaps it stems from leadership that doesn’t know there’s a whole science and set of CC and OCM methodologies that go along with IT implementations. Perhaps they have never been shown the value of that OCM and CC can bring, so they still don’t think it’s important enough to invest in. Perhaps it’s a matter of showing people that it works and makes a difference!

The Time for Change is Now

The 4th industrial revolution challenges most of our existing mental models. What this means is that cultural change is essential to enable and execute successfully, any business / organizational / digital transformation. The key is having a plan, as well as, having developed tools and process for culture change and organizational change management which includes, but is not limited to having a:

  1. Communication plan and regular communication cadence
  2. Leadership and stakeholder involvement and engagement
  3. Training and skill development for the future state of the business and
  4. Organizational readiness and adoption on a continuing basis of the ongoing changes.

And of course, underneath each of these very simplistic groupings is a deep set of assumptions, tools, methodology and business-driven outcomes. So digital transformation isn’t uniquely about technology. It is about having the right digital strategy to ultimately transform a business to achieve higher objectives. This type of digital transformation must be built along with the human capital component, including skill sets, as well as, a cultural adoption of changing the way we do business. So what it boils down to is evolving behaviors within the organization, both from a leadership point of view as well as middle level managers to all employees.

Being Stuck in the OCM Adoption Chasm Will Cause Digital Transformation Failure

What is seems like, referencing one of my favorite people and author’s is Geoffrey Moore. It’s seems that perhaps we are, after twenty or more years of having OCM and CC at our finger tips, we are stuck in the adoption chasm. What we are headed for is the digital transformation iceberg of failure. We know what the iceberg did to the Titanic. We don’t want to be on a sinking ship. So what does an organization need to do? More on all of this in a future post.


Natalie Petouhoff

VP, Program Executive, ITC |


* “Two Thirds of Digital Transformation Projects Fail” Consultancy.UK. N.p., 28 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 July 2016

**Rogers, Bruce. “Why 84% Of Companies Fail At Digital Transformation.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 7 Jan. 2016. Web














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Is Organizational Change Management Just the “Fluffy Stuff” or Is There Real Business Value?

Is OCM and CC Kumbaya?

When I first lead organizational change management (OCM) and culture change (CC), it was at previous high tech company; a company made up of mainly engineers. When the topic was first announced as part of our integrated product developed process (a.k.a. teaming) it was labelled very quickly as “apple pie and motherhood.” Many thought we were going to sing Kumbaya or I was going to bring cake and cookies to meetings. What I learned was framing what the results could be and by providing individuals, teams and organizations, with tangible results, I found being outcomes-driven was the missing key. How so?

Outcomes-based Driven Values

When I framed OCM and CC in terms of outcomes and business value, I asked questions like, “Would you like it if everyone showed up to your meetings? On time? With the action items completed? With a proactive attitude vs “not invented here or we don’t do that – that way here” attitude…  Get a high rate of return on projects- projects on time, within budget and scope, high customer satisfaction…? Of course the answer was a resounding “YES.” The employees were craving answers to these issues that plagued the organization. And no one knew how to fix these issues. They just persisted. People stopped taking deadlines seriously. They expected project scope to creep. Budget overruns were somewhat typical.


When I was able to explain the value of the outcomes of OCM and CC to them personally and their teams- the WIIFM (What’s in It For Me), they became extremely interested as the cultured suffered from too many meetings, people always in meetings so they never had time to do their action items; a passive-aggressive culture- so instead of coming to the meeting (without the action items completed and saying they didn’t have time and figuring out how to change something so they did have time) they just wouldn’t show up… And in that company – one team’s action items directly impacted another. For instance, if team 1 didn’t finish their action items teams 2, 3, 4… couldn’t do theirs… and the project fell behind, out of scope, over budget… It was a horrible domino affect that one one really knew how to fix. Giving orders that projects needs to be on-time, within budget and on scope didn’t really lead to change. It just lead to frustration because there were reasons why those things were happening, but giving an order that they needed to be done didn’t fix the root cause. So nothing changed.

What I learned about Leading Change

What I learned was when I presented OCM and CC in terms of outcomes – employees and leaders were very interested. I learned when I first presented OCM and CC without the business outcomes, it resulted in #fail. Then, I pivoted and iterated to an outcomes driven aproached, related to WIIFM and it resulted in #success… Net-net? Choosing a few key behaviors’ that help people work better together in a way that supports desired organizational outcomes, gets people on board…

What 20 years of leading change has taught me is that it’s all about framing CC and OCM in a way that people can relate to. Unfortunately a lot of CC or OCM got a bad rap as the fluffy stuff. But I have spent a great deal of my career over the last 20 years writing ROI (return on investment) models for the “fluffy stuff.” And I can tell you, it’s not fluffy… it impacts the bottomline…  

OCM and CC Tools and Methodology Are Key to Successfully Transitioning From The “Fluffy Stuff” To Concrete Business Results

And of course having a methodology and tools that help teams and people make those changes… takes it out of the “fluffy stuff” and into the business realm. OCM and CC is so much more, but people don’t know, what they don’t know… so it’s key to have a concrete methodology so it’s taken seriously and it can add business value to teams and our customers. More on that in future posts.


Natalie Petouhoff

VP, Program Executive, ITC |