I once knew a Fortune 500 CEO who completed hundred-million-dollar deals without signing a contract, because, he told me, “If trust breaks down to the point where we have to rely on the fine print to enforce the agreement, then it’s a losing deal anyway. I’d rather count on the goodwill of my partner and me to work things out than try to write and enforce an agreement that anticipates all possibilities.”
Some companies create burdensome regimes of rules and contracts to control every possible risk and contingency. They leave their employees no discretion, create a culture of inflexibility and bureaucracy, and slow the whole organization down. Unfortunately for them, business is a realm where superior judgment and personal relationships, and not faux-deterministic legalities, are what create winning companies.
Sign fewer contracts. Create fewer inflexible rules. Dismantle bureaucracy. Empower and encourage your people to use their judgment to build profitable relationships that grow and improve your company. Do so, and you’ll make far more money than you ever will by kowtowing to your lawyers.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) describes one of today’s biggest hurdles for job seekers: Screening software. Getting the software to find a ‘match’ when compared with a laundry list of required skills has become a formidable barrier to entry… even if you’re the best candidate for the job. Case and point: The example cited in the WSJ had to do with a company seeking a standard engineering position. Of the 25,000 applicants who submitted their resumes, not one fit the requirements. I guarantee that particular employer missed more than one needle in the haystack.
This breakdown in process occurs because both employers and candidates take the easy way out when it comes to recruitment. The employer, flooded with resumes at unprecedented volumes (thanks to online job listing services like Monster), simply want a way to weed out the candidates who do not fit requirements. Unfortunately, the people writing requirements don’t seem to understand the people they want to find.
Job requirements often boil down to a long list of skills followed by educational requirements that may not improve the quality of the candidate. Issues to consider include:
- Great job experience can equal or exceed the value gained from earning certain degrees
- Companies have set unrealistic expectations as they skinny down the workforce and give employees more responsibilities
- Very rarely do requirements focus on the personality traits a candidate needs to excel in the role… or to fit corporate culture
As a rule people excel when they have autonomy, mastery, and purpose in the workplace. And here’s the rub. Eventually mastery brings boredom. Employees and job seekers alike seek growth. So, if you select the most qualified candidate based on ‘fit’ for the skill sets and positions held in the past, then you will find someone who will soon be bored once they’ve learned the ins and outs of your organization. To look for the perfect fit that matches each requirement typecasts your candidates. Only a few people ever manage to escape typecasting. Pigeonholing people like this from the outset demotivates them later.
A better recruitment strategy might include looking for candidates who satisfy 70% of the requirements and have the aptitude to grow. And then adhere to a philosophy that advances all the people in your company. You aren’t building their skill sets so they can find work elsewhere. You’re investing in them so they can deliver exceptional results for you. Treat them well, establish loyalty and trust, and jobs at other companies stop appearing like a threat.
From the candidate’s perspective, resume submission has always been a numbers game. The ability to submit online only pushed that number into an astronomically low probability of getting noticed. You can spend months (or years) at your desk submitting a bunch of resumes day-after-day with no other result than silence, confirmation emails, and occasionally a rejection email. And that takes a big bite out of your ego, which in turn impacts how well you interview should you be lucky enough to get through the door.
An effective job search strategy requires you to leave the desk on a regular basis. Expand your skill set and knowledge base. Volunteer. Actively network. Go to job fairs. Know (and clearly articulate) what you want to do and speak about how you can bring value that no one else can. Make a great first impression. Leave potential employers feeling like they cannot live without your talent. And screen for chemistry and cultural fit. That’s how you find a job in good economic conditions and bad.
I was mortified to read that “many companies have grown to look at their employees as “short-term disposable assets” in yesterday’s CEO Briefing. If true, this statement says that corporate “leaders” have completely lost their way. We cannot hope to build and grow successful companies with an attitude that undermines the very nature of what establishes healthy organizations.
Trust, loyalty, and respect are bi-directional emotions that create a sense of belonging we all need. The strength of these feelings among people in the workplace impact the quality of work performed—especially when it comes to creating the customer experience. So, if you’ve gotten to thinking that being loyal no longer has a place in your leadership style, think again. Your people reflect the very qualities you demonstrate. Employee loyalty and customer loyalty lead to the same place.
When employees go above or beyond what’s expected of them on the job, it’s a welcomed gesture for supervisors to show their appreciation. The most significant thank you might come in the form of a monetary bonus, an extra paid day off , box seats to a sporting event or even a simple gift card to a nice local restaurant or Starbucks.
In a 1973 study on over-justification, psychologists Mark Lepper, David Greene, and Richard Nisbett proved that rewards best worked as legitimate motivators (especially over time) when they came as an unexpected surprise for a job well done. More recent studies over the last few decades have also backed up this idea. It would seem, then, that it’s not the carrot-on-a-stick mentality that drives employees toward greatness but rather the act of being recognized or thanked after the fact for contributing positively to their work community.
Money, of course, still talks. But when it comes to company morale or long-term job satisfaction, smaller acts such as listening and other forms of recognition can sometimes be an even better workplace motivator. It’s easy to offer non-monetary acknowledgement as a form of appreciation. An email or interoffice memo highlighting an employee’s efforts, a mention in the newsletter, an announcement at a staff meeting or company luncheon, or even a sincere one-on-one expression of personal thanks and gratitude can go a long way in driving employees to continue to perform beyond their standard workday expectations.
Even more than an employee-of-the-month plaque on the wall or a round of applause at the next weekly meeting, though, the single best motivator might be for supervisors to take a few minutes away from the bustle of the workday and genuinely listen to their employees.
Allyson Armistead, a federal employee working in Washington, D.C., said, “The best boss I ever had, in meetings, would always go around the room and ask for every single person’s closing thoughts about an intense discussion. [This] made for a wonderful morale in the office. Everyone felt taken care of, not just because they were employees, but because they were people.” What this boils down to is that the ideal boss has a genuine interest in the input of his or her employees, and that this kind of supervisor works hard to create a work environment in which everyone plays a significant role and no one is left feeling marginalized.
Armistead went on to say, “[That boss] made everyone go home at 5 p.m., whether we were finished with a task at hand or not; he always insisted on work/life balance.” In addition to being a good communicator and a good listener, a good supervisor is one who has a realistic understanding of the fact that in order for employees to excel, they need time for their personal lives and for self-care outside of the office, and who will then strive to manage that balance appropriately and effectively. Later Armistead added, perhaps only partly in jest, “Oh, and raises−lots and lots of raises. That helps too,” but this seemed like more of an afterthought. A writer for a large national website, who preferred to remain anonymous for this article, shared similar thoughts, “Most importantly, in a huge, growing company, I often don’t feel like I’m being listened to. I’m the single best source for information on how my little corner of the system could be streamlined, since I work there every day. I wish management would show some interest in my perspective.”
IT’S EASY TO OFFER NONMONETARY
AS A FORM OF APPRECIATION
Employees need to know that they matter. This certainly doesn’t mean that doing their job well (something that’s already expected) needs to be qualified repeatedly with glittery stickers and praise. What it does mean is that there are certain benefits that employees hope for when they consistently bring their ‘A’ game, and one of them is to feel like they have a voice and an opportunity to impact their company in a real way. This person continued, “A statement of ‘job well done’ not only makes my day but also motivates me to continue to do well… because someone a) noticed, and b) has taken a moment to acknowledge my contribution.” Sandy Marchetti, an adjunct writing/ composition professor and a university writing specialist, indicated that long-term rewards were the best personal motivator for her, particularly ones that made her feel like her employers valued her as an investment over time. “I don’t necessarily need instant gratification in the form of money/physical gifts,” she said. She’d prefer “opportunities to take on more responsibility. For example, find me a full-time position if you want me to stay and you think I’m doing a great job as a parttime employee.”
It’s not enough for managers to simply oversee; instead, they must also lead. One of the best ways to do this, especially while keeping the employees’ and the company’s best interests in mind, is to delegate with confidence and trust that employees can rise to the tasks and challenges placed before them, and then give them the appropriate credit for contributing positively to a successful work environment. Chris McClinch, a contractor in the federal government sector who oversees a half a dozen employees, said, “I’m best motivated by being left alone to make the client happy. My people seem best motivated by a good work-life balance, clear instruction on what I want, clear feedback on their performance as it happens… and the genuine workplace friendships that come from taking an active interest in their families, interests, weekend plans, etc.”
From the employee perspective, Sandy Marchetti agrees, “Give [us] more freedom!” she says. “Hold us accountable for big things rather than small things. Reward work along a big picture perspective. Encourage employees to figure out the means of a project themselves, and hold them accountable to the end.” And once bosses are really listening? Well, then a lunch or a happy hour at Clyde’s or Mr. Smith’s in Georgetown or a month-end bonus would also be nice.
When I was a young CEO, a woman reporting to me worked long hours one weekend preparing a draft report to show me first thing Monday morning. I came in at 7:00 AM and went through it with exacting standards and a critical eye, eager to provide my next set of instructions and get on with the rest of my day as quickly as possible. With the instructions delivered I indicated the meeting was over, and she got up to go. As she reached the door she turned back to me, and as a young woman only a year out of college speaking to the head of the company she offered this advice: “You know what the problem with you is, Bob? You don’t say ‘Thank you’ enough.” With that she left, closing the door behind her.
I’ve never forgotten that moment, nor my admiration for her directness and courage. And with time, I’ve learned to understand her advice within a broader context.
Great leaders need to demand the very best of their people. They set standards high, and then follow through by managing to those standards and delivering feedback and rewards consistent with results. Leaders need to be appropriately tough, and while they should offer every employee unconditional respect, they can’t afford to offer unconditional praise – unless they want their company to be mediocre.
At the same time, when results are delivered and standards are met, your employee deserves not only tangible rewards but personal appreciation. If you offer “thank you” whenever (but only whenever) it is deserved, it will be as motivational as the raise, bonus or promotion that is the other part of the equation.
Your employees are people, not machines, and they crave the approval of their boss. When you express your appreciation, sincerely and meaningfully, you put a smile on their face, a bounce in their step, and a turbo-charger in the quality and productivity of their next piece of work. The more you do it, the more you’ll find people trying to move mountains for you and your company. And best of all, gratitude like charity is even more gratifying for the grantor than the recipient: You’ll put a smile on your own face and a bounce in your own step.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go hunt down a woman from long ago to send her this post and say “thank you.”
Yesterday’s CEO Briefing reports that that 1/3 of employees want to quit their jobs… even in an uncertain employment climate. The article cites research from Mercer, an HR consulting firm, that shows employee morale has plummeted due to two factors:
- A decrease in benefits
- ‘The deal,’ or the job, has changed
Job satisfaction has too many dimensions to bundle into the simple statement Mercer tries to make. Moreover, the Mercer study has not uncovered anything new, nor necessarily identified root cause issues. Perhaps a decrease in benes and doing more with less are additive factors contributing to a malaise the American workforce has felt for quite some time.
Today we’ll start peeling the onion to see what really causes unhappiness in the workplace. Would it surprise you that know it begins with the recruitment process?
People generally feel excitement when starting a new job. What happens, then, to drain that enthusiasm over time? I believe that employers and job candidates often (unknowingly) set themselves up for failure before the applicant even walks through the door.
For example, if you read a job listing that describes tasks and responsibilities without taking personal attributes into account, the company has not clearly assessed or communicated its cultural climate. Their success hinges on employee engagement. Successful hiring comes from knowing and actively screening based on:
- Corporate culture
- Strengths and weaknesses of the existing team members
- Personality traits, predominant behaviors, and skills that will fit culture and needs
I contend that companies need to be self-aware. If they cannot describe their culture (with enthusiasm and sincerity) during the interview, it’s a red flag.
Conversely, job candidates also need to demonstrate self-awareness. They must have a clear understanding about:
- Type of work they’ll find fulfilling
- The leadership style that inspires them
- What they bring to the table than no one else can
The interview creates an opportunity for open discussion. If you cannot articulate your goals or how you’ll add value without exaggeration, then you will not get an offer. More importantly, you need to actively screen the employer for cultural fit. Your happiness depends on it.
Bottom line: Chemistry counts as much in the workplace as it does when finding a life partner.
We’ll peel back the onion take a look at other layers that contribute to workforce dissatisfaction in the coming weeks.
Last week an acquaintance told me she was debating the pros and cons of earning an MBA. Her basic question: will the time, effort, and investment pay off?
A lot of people have been asking themselves the same question. The poor economy has caused many to take the plunge. Some seek to make themselves more marketable with an advanced degree. Others look for a justifiable place to wait out the recession without creating a hole in their resumes.
As with anything, there are a number of ways to assess value. Today we’ll take a look at self-defined outcomes and employer expectations.
A number of attributes affect the quality of education a person receives. At one end of the spectrum students experience a transformation that deeply impacts their professional and personal lives. At the other end of the spectrum students pass time, learn the lingo, and walk away with a diploma that makes them superficially more marketable. Factors include:
Motivation plays a key role in everything you do. The benefit you receive ties directly to the effort you expend. If you’re just biding your time until the economy turns around, you won’t get much value from your new degree.
A positive attitude that focuses on maximizing your experience makes you a malleable student and your education will be a transformational experience. Conversely, students that look forward to having a diploma as the impetus to a better job offer will not gain much more than a piece of paper.
Finally, people who play to their strengths benefit the most. Pursing an occupation that syncs with natural abilities will keep your interest and amplify your talents. Students who pursue occupations that fall outside of their natural abilities may gain a solid education and be able to apply what they’ve learned, but they’ll have an average career and won’t have much fun along the way.
Earning a master’s degree should give you a very different way of looking at the world, a kit filled with shiny new tools, and vastly improved problem-solving skills. Employers make the assumption about the value your degree brings to the company and base your compensation and responsibilities on an expectation that you can apply what the school taught.
If you graduate just knowing the lingo or with an attitude that it’s okay to phone it in at work, your degree makes you more marketable with the first job you get out of school. But, your performance and achievements on the job will impact marketability for internal promotions or references when seeking a position with a new employer.
It’s not like the old days when my grandfather received preference over they guy standing next to him because he had gone to college. As we discussed yesterday, his engineering degree did not improve qualifications for backbreaking manual labor. In today’s knowledge economy, though, how you apply your degree matters.
In my freshman year as an international student, our volleyball coach assigned two leaders to build their teams to play a short basketball game as a warm up. The only two players left at the end were the two international players of the team, whom by the way, happened to have the highest vertical and leading statistics as athletes. Naturally, basketball was an American heritage, distant from the realm of international students. I remember running back and forth with my team desperately demanding and not receiving a single pass. I should have realized then this experience was a reminiscent of what I was about to face in my professional career as well.
US census bureau states that as of 2009, out of 154.1 million employees in the United States, there are 28.5 million minorities in the workforce. Minority employment is projected to increase to 34.4 million by 2018. As confirmed by the projections, the workforce in the United States is increasingly diverse. As stated by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, American Psychological Association, and Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, mismanagement of diverse employee population results in dissatisfaction, low productivity, problematic team dynamics, and retention problems. This is certainly a hot topic for Washington, DC. There are more than 300,000 large company headquarters within proximity. Concurrently, the economical and political foundation of Washington, DC is immensely diverse.
The definition of diversity refers to individually varied developmental differences, including race, culture, and religion. A multi-cultural work environment can be an asset for global businesses. Alternative practices and varied perspectives may increase creativity and nourish group dynamics. Unique backgrounds and experiences might become indispensible for negotiations and management of international companies. The new hybrid platform on the other hand is subject to discriminative attitudes that are incrementally damaging, if ameliorations are not carefully implemented.
We might believe attention to diversity is overrated. Focus can be kept on majority way of thinking and doing things. Minorities can be trained and lead the way to join preponderance. But will it be effective and possible to achieve?
Discriminative behavior ranges from obvious personal assault to benign microaggressions. We are not too worried about the direct assertiveness, because they are protected mainly under enforced laws, company policies, and simple virtue of humanism. On the other hand, it is those benevolent, unconscious communication patterns that are the most hurtful. Microaggressions is a term initially defined by Chester M. Pierce in the 1970s and is currently used by Columbia University psychologist Derald Wing Sue and his colleagues on their eminent studies on minority and discrimination. Microaggressions are found in the choice of vocabulary, body language, a sigh, or even a peculiar look. Despite the benignant intentions, microaggressions are even more precarious compared to obvious outbursts, because they poignantly justify perceived discrimination. Through these small reminders of misfit, minorities lose hope of finding equal grounds and confidence in their living environment. Even their egos are somewhat attacked, because despite their consummate qualifications, having a linguistic accent or the slightest representation of their ethnic background degrades their value in the eye of perpetuator.
Diversity management programs do not only help eliminate prejudice but also improves employee relationships, team productivity, public relations, and company branding. 80% of the Fortune 500 Companies either currently have or are in the process of adopting a diversity training program. Diversity management used to be applied in terms of training and uniting everyone regardless of their differences under one concrete, mainstream identity. This monolithic approach did not allow for differences to surface, however was not very effective either. Currently, the shift is towards pluralistic management where each and every difference is promoted, inspired, and actively utilized. The point is to broaden alternative approaches and again create a solid identity; a multi-cultural identity.
One bitter and ever-present fact about human beings is that our brains work well with stereotyping. It helps them survive by remembering through personal experiences and use present clues to utilize and reapply new information based on schemas. If our aim is to stop stereotypical behavior, our task is a one hard apple to bite. However, we can use stereotypical proneness to our advantage by promoting ethnically diverse or welcoming role models in organizations. Building pleasant and inspiring memories would help re-shape our schemas in more positive, liberal ways.
Individual differences of physical appearance, private lives, religious choices, and cultural background on the other hand can be turned into benign variations through interaction. Novel practices are intimidating. High proximity keeps differences strong. Organizations are bound to provide friendly settings and interaction-inviting atmosphere in the workplace. When diverse groups spend time as teammates, friends, colleagues, and group members, they get acquainted. Acquaintance refers to relating to each other better, which in turn makes minorities look less as strangers and more like team members. Inextricably, in any attempt to create a multi-cultural identity, we must recurrently assess our own objectivity and values towards differences. Do we, despite our most naïve intentions, really pass the ball and give a chance to our teammate to see how she/he can contribute to mainstream?
References & Suggested Reading
American Psychological Association [APA]. (2011). www.apa.org
Bodenhausen, G. F. (1993), Emotion, arousal, and stereotypic judgment: A heuristic model of affect and stereotyping. In D. Mackie & D. Hamilton (Eds.), Affect, cognition, and stereotyping: Intergroup processes in intergroup perception (pp. 13-37). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Calloway, J. A., & Awadzi, W. (2010). An examination of affirmative action, diversity and justice. The Consortium Journal of Hospitality & Tourism, 14(2), 65-73.
De Meuse, K. P., Hosteger, T. J., & O`Neill, K. S. (2007). A longitudinal evaluation of senior managers` perceptions and attitudes of a workplace diversity training program. HumanResource Planning, 30(2), 38-46.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2011). Race and color discrimination. Retrieved on April 27, 2011 from www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/race_color.cfm
Jones, D., Pringle, J., & Shepherd, D. (2000). Managing diversity meets Aotearoa/New Zealand. Personnel Review, 29(3), 364-380.
Katrinli, A., Atabay, G., & Gunay, G. (2008). A historical view of diversity management: The Ottoman Empire case. International Journal of Business Research, 8(2), 137-145.
Li, J., & Karakowsky, L. (2001). Do we see eye to eye? Implications of cultural differences for cross-cultural management research and practice. The Journal of Psychology, 135(5), 501-517.
Marsella, A. J. (1998). Toward a global community psychology: Meeting the needs of a changing world. American Psychologist, 53, 1282-1291.
Miller, F., & Katz, J. (2002). The inclusion breakthrough: Unleashing the real power of diversity. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
US Census Bureau. (2011). Table 585. Civilian Labor Force and Participation Rates With
Projections: 1980 to 2018. Retrieved on April 27, 2011 from http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2011/tables/11s0585.pdf
Oakes, P. J., Haslam, S. A., & Turner, J. C. (1994). Stereotyping and social reality. Oxford: Blackwell.
Prilleltensky, I. (1997). Values, assumptions, and practices: Assessing the moral implications of psychological discourse and action. American Psychologist, 52, 517-535.
Schwartz, R. H., & Post, F. R. (2002). The unexplored potential of hope to level the playing field: A multilevel perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 37(2), 135-143.
Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology [SIOP]. (2011). www.siop.org
Sue, D. W., Bucceri, J., Lin, A. I., Nadal, K. L., & Torino, G. C. (2009). Racial microaggressions and the Asian American experience. Asian American Journal of Psychology, S(1), 88-101.
Thomas, R. (1991). Beyond race and gender: Unleashing the power of total workforce bymanaging diversity. New York: AMACOM.
Triandis, H. C. (1999). Cross-cultural psychology. Asian Journal of Social Psychology(2)1, 127- 143.
Van Den Bergh, N. (2003). Getting a piece of the pie: Cultural competence for GLBT employees at the workplace. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 8(2-3), 55-73.
Wiltz, F., Ventemerica, P., & Porter, V. (2005). A workplace diversity training and management model. International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities & Nations, 5(3), 171-179.
Washington DC announced a new pilot program, Live Near Your Work, the end of last month. Employers who want to participate must submit applications by June 17. On the surface it sounds like an interesting idea. But after reading the plan, one’s natural reaction is, “What were they thinking?”
The DC Office of Planning has budgeted up to $200,000 for the pilot. Participating employers will provide matching funds (in increments of $3,000 and $6,000) depending upon where employees move in relation to the company and public transportation. Qualified employees will receive grants from the city and grants or zero interest loans from the employer. That’s right. You may have to pay half of your incentive back to the company when you pay off, refinance, or sell your home.
Reportedly, the plan is designed to:
- Improve employees’ health because they walk to work.
- Decrease transportation costs.
- Lower turnover rates.
- Improve on time attendance.
- Reduce the callout rate.
- Provide a recruitment incentive.
- Reduce traffic congestion.
- Lower emission rates.
- Expanded the city’s tax base.
Granted, some of the rationale makes sense. Some people probably would walk to work and the benefits associated with improved health, reduced traffic, etc. would very likely happen. Here’s where the rationale starts to fall apart.
- Living in DC is a specific lifestyle choice. It’s great place to live for those who want that experience, but it’s not for everyone.
- Perhaps I’m too old school, but people have an obligation to show up to work on time and not callout unless they’re sick.
- The increase in tax base would occur if people choose to move to DC anyway. The promise of $6,000 to $12,000 (some of which may need to be paid back) isn’t enough to induce someone to move to the city.
The bottom line: people who are planning to move to DC and who happen to work for these employers will get marginal benefit from the program. The grants aren’t enough to encourage people to move, and therefore the program will fail to achieve its stated objectives. End of program metrics may show that the program worked. However, I argue that there’s a mismatch between strategy and goals, and thus the results—whatever they are—will be severely flawed.
I wonder the DC Office of Planning considered subsidizing other programs that might achieve most of their stated goals—like teleworking?
The differences between larger companies and smaller ones are many and varied. In a large company, the fundamental truths are well known. The established company knows things like who the customers are, how much they will pay for the product, what they like about the product, etc. In a start up company, not so much. Discovery is key. Communication is vital. In a start up company, the potential customers and price are unanswered questions. And not only are things unknown, there is usually a limited time to determine the answers. All this mystery can be quite confusing to employees new to the start up environment. These formerly large company employees can enter a small business ill-prepared to succeed even though they’re fully capable of doing so. To change that, here are 5 things you should tell them.
Pursue the truth
Tell your new employees to engage with people who know or should know the answers to the questions above. Ask questions, don’t be defensive, accept input, encourage open ended conversations, don’t preempt responses. Discover as much as possible about customers; their perceptions, and their thoughts. Always attempt to uncover knowledge and the truth. Make this is a voyage of discovery. Sid Banarjee, CEO of Reston-based Clarabridge, offers that, “When your company is still in a discovery mode to determine what it might be when it grows up–‘your agenda should be to have no agenda’. Create an environment where everyone in the company sees the raw data from customers, product needs, and market wins and losses, so that everyone can develop a perspective.”