colored ribbons woven diversity

#WorkTrends: Lessons on Leadership and Diversity from One of West Point’s First Female Grads

Sara Potecha was one of West Point’s first female graduates. Now, she works as a speaker, consultant and writer. If that isn’t enough to make you feel lazy, know that Potecha also works as a leadership coach, often advising women on how to navigate toxic situations in the workplace.

What Potecha recognizes is that the world isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean we have to just accept it. She has great strategies for those of us dealing with less-than-ideal work situations, and an inspiring approach to leadership that comes directly from her military background.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

The Importance of Humble Leadership

Some time ago, Potecha was in a job interview, and her time at West Point came up. The person interviewing Potecha told her, “You know, you just can’t give orders around here.”

Rather than yell at him — like I might have — Potecha instead did something different. “I thought back to the long deployments of my 300-person company in all kinds of weather,” she says. This time in the field, as well as her military training, had taught her the importance of humble leadership. “It was the idea that we emphasized over and over — that every member of the team was critical to our success, and we needed them to all do their jobs and help one another.”

The CEO interviewing Potecha was taken aback when she explained the concept to him. Humble leadership is not a quality stereotypically associated with the military, but it is actually a concept that is ingrained in military training. “We’re taught to value teamwork over individual accomplishments,” Potecha explains.

It’s a trait that she believes transfers to the corporate world as well. “I am convinced that great results occur in corporations when the leaders are committed to overall success of the company rather than their own personal agendas or careers,” she says.

Navigating Toxic Situations

In her role as a leadership coach, Potecha often works with women who encounter toxic behaviors at work. She finds that most of her clients do not regularly encounter blatant harassment, but rather more subtle behaviors that eat away at their self-confidence. Sometimes a male colleague will not address them directly or their ideas are more easily dismissed than those from their male counterparts.

In these situations, Potecha advises her clients to consider a previous toxic situation — for example, an idea that was unfairly dismissed. Potecha asks her clients to think about how others in the room react when their ideas are dismissed, and what they can learn from their approach. She also advises them to look for examples of female leaders they admire. Then, Potecha has her clients attempt to translate these traits into a skillset, so they can better navigate future trying situations.

She also advises her clients to keep their composure. It is not much different from the deep breathing techniques many of us practice at yoga. “By remaining calm, they’re better able to think their way through a situation rather than just shut down,” Potecha says. This way, Potecha’s clients can be intentional in their responses, and wrestle control of a bad situation.

How to Thrive in a System That Isn’t Created for You

As we have recently seen with NASA’s cancellation of an all-female moonwalk, not every organization accounts equally for both genders — or for other differences. Potecha has experienced some of this firsthand in the corporate environment, and she has advice for those struggling to adapt to organizations that don’t always make space for you.

First, she says to limit your focus to what you can control. This “includes your attitude and the work that you do to demonstrate your competence,” she says. She also says to make yourself available as a team player. Look to pick up team roles that are going unfulfilled in an organization, so that you can show how you can make an impact. You can even volunteer for positions unrelated to your current one, so that you find space to take a break from dysfunction.

But ultimately, she says that those in poor situations have to play the long game. “I’ve found most situations are transient,” she says. “Adopt the mentality that this too shall pass.” Find relief outside of work: exercise, deep breathing and healthy eating. While the situation may become so untenable you are forced to leave, perhaps those that are making it a poor environment will do so first.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

This episode of WorkTrends is supported by the CHRO Exchange, an exclusive networking event for HR executives and thought-leaders. Share insights, benchmark strategies and learn from the heads of HR at Walmart, Verizon, the Atlanta Braves and more, all at the 11th CHRO Exchange taking place in Austin, Texas, May 19 through 21. Reserve your spot and learn more here.

limitless

#WorkTrends: Limitless: A New Framework for Employee Engagement

When Laura Gassner Otting was working as an executive recruiter, she had a revelation: success does not always equal happiness. Over time, she’s come to see that the people who are happiest in their jobs have achieved what she calls “consonance.”

“It’s people who have carved their own path, who have figured out, ‘This is the one that I really want to do,’” she says.

But getting to a place of consonance requires rethinking how we approach employee engagement. So we sat down with Gassner Otting to discuss the relationship between employee engagement and career satisfaction. Her new book, “Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life” is a great place to start.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

The Stats Behind Engagement

It’s a no-brainer to say that employe engagement is important. If your employees aren’t engaged … well, you might not have a company after a while.

The reality is that engagement is a serious crisis in the workplace. “There was a Gallup study that was done a few years ago that said that only one-third of U.S. workers are engaged in their work,” Gassner Otting says. Statistics further bear out that engaged workers are 22 percent more effective for the companies they work for — hence, the need to devote organizational resources to engagement.

However, Gassner Otting reminds us that there is no magic formula to engagement — not even for the same employee. Our identities do not remain static over time. As we get older, we change, and we prioritize different things. We get married, have kids, and sometimes throw a bit too much of our savings account into a grab bag of mid-life crisis hobbies.

Managers must ensure they are getting to know each employee on an individual level. Creating these relationships is essential to knowing what a person cares about individually, engaging them to do their best work, and helping employees find consonance.

The Four C’s

Consonance is almost a feeling of zen with one’s work — what Gassner Otting calls “being in this frictionless sense of belonging.”

Achieving consonance is not as difficult as it might sound. Gassner Otting has created a framework that breaks down consonance into four categories. “They all very conveniently start with C,” she jokes.

  • Calling
      Calling is your sense of purpose — what drives you. “It can be a family that you want to raise,” says Gassner Otting. “It can be a societal ill that you want to solve.” People all have different callings, she explains, but we do have one thing in common: “We all have that thing.”
  • Connection
    • “Connection is really the answer to the question of ‘Why do I matter? Why does my work matter?’ ” she says. Find your place in your company’s organizational chart, and understand why you matter.
  • Contribution
    • “While connection is all about the work, contribution is really about you, individually,” Gassner Otting explains. Figure out how you want your work to contribute to your community and the values you want to manifest with it.
  • Control
      Control is the act of self-assertion — finding out how much control you need over the other three C’s to achieve your personal idea of success and happiness. “For each one of us, that’s going to be very different,” she says.

Engage Yourself!

None of us can depend on our managers to keep us engaged. It’s also our responsibility to check in with ourselves and assess our satisfaction with our work life.

That’s why Gassner Otting has created a quiz exclusively for #WorkTrends listeners. It only takes ten or fifteen minutes, and the quiz will help you think about what work means to you — and if your career is fulfilling you on a level that goes beyond the direct deposits into your bank account.

Best of all? At the end of the quiz, you’ll receive feedback on how you can bring consonance to your own life.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

This episode of WorkTrends is supported by the CHRO Exchange, an exclusive networking event for HR executives and thought-leaders. Share insights, benchmark strategies, and learn from the Heads of HR at Walmart, Verizon, the Atlanta Braves, and more, all at the 11th CHRO Exchange taking place in Austin, Texas. May 19 through the 21. Reserve your spot and learn more here.

#WorkTrends: Politics at Work

There’s an old adage never to discuss religion and politics. Unfortunately, it seems like discussing politics is unavoidable these days — and for good reason.

For a lot of us, the crisis in our political system is a cause for alarm, and it’s difficult to stop thinking or talking about it. But finding the balance with those you disagree with politically can be enormously difficult, especially in a day and age where people are more divided than ever.

These politically charged times are not going to end any time soon, so we decided it was time to seek some help. Today, we’re joined by two guests. Our first guest is Eric Pliner, managing director of the Americas for YSC Consulting. After that, we are joined by Steve Paskoff, the founder of ELI, a training company that helps organizations solve the problem of bad behavior in the workplace. Together, the two cover everything you need to know about navigating water cooler conversations in these turbulent times.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Why Are We So Angry?

The idea that we have politics on our minds isn’t so unique, says Pliner. “I think people have always talked about things and always had different ways of engaging,” he explains.

However, what makes this current moment in time different is the emotional responses it triggers in all of us. Pliner believes that part of the reason for this is the nonstop nature of our news cycle. With internet access being so ubiquitous, it’s easy to catch up on the news of the day — and it’s just as easy for us to form an opinion on it.

Perhaps it’s our instantaneous news cycle, or maybe it’s something deeper. But the other big change that Pliner has noticed is that people have become much more defensive of their political views, and they are more fearful than ever before of expressing their political views at work, regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum. “The common experience now is feeling threatened or uncomfortable, whereas before the common experience might have been just being part of a workplace together.”

Give People More

The other side effect of our tumultuous times is what we can call a bit of a spiritual crisis. No, this is not a Jimmy Carter malaise, but something completely different. “A lot of us, leaders included, are thinking about the existential questions in ways that perhaps were not as much a part of our day to day existence in the past,” Pliner explains.

In short, a paycheck is not enough for many at work. What they are seeking is a great sense of fulfillment. “What we do know is that people are willing to sacrifice some aspects of comp if it means that they get more out of every day,” Pliner says. So make sure your organization is focused on things beyond growth and shareholder value. Find how you can make an actionable difference in the world. “It’s not enough to put your values on the wall. You have to live them in how you interact every day,” Pliner says.

Building these values has an effect beyond retention: it unites your employees with a common goal, no matter if they are blue, red or somewhere in between.

The Role of HR

Of course, HR has a massive role to play in ensuring that the office is a comfortable place for every employee. Unfortunately, no matter how much hard work we put in, conflicts can arise.

When thinking about the role of HR, Paskoff believes that HR must remember that their role has to be seen as a business issue. “The principle that we have is that behavior helps drive results,” he says. This means that HR must commit to early intervention when conflict arises. “The sooner you talk about [an issue] at the lower level of intervention, the more likely you are to get quick results that minimize disruption, harm and damage,” he continues.

HR must also commit to clear communication with employees about the standards it expects. After all, Paskoff points out, discussing your organization’s values and modeling behavior have a very low impact on your budget. In fact, they cost absolutely nothing.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Is retirement outdated

#WorkTrends: Is Retirement Outdated?

Retirement comes from the French word meaning “to isolate yourself.” But as our guest Chris Farrell puts it: “Who wants to be isolated?”

More and more, we are seeing older workers continue in the workforce or return to it. So what does this mean for our concept of retirement? Farrell joined us to break things down, and he shared with us some surprising statistics about the relationship between older and younger workers. Farrell is the senior economics contributor to the public radio program Marketplace and also the author of five books on personal finance in the economy. We’re very happy he didn’t isolate himself from us!

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

A New Way of Thinking About Retirement

The traditional idea of retiring at 65 seems to be going by the wayside. However, this may actually have positive benefits for mental health. “One of the things that the research is starting to show is that work can be good for your brain,” says Farrell. Work doesn’t just provide personal purpose, but also a sense of community. Even just gossiping while waiting in line for the Keurig machine engages our brain in healthy ways — not to mention the fact that work does require you to use your brain for the actual work you have to do.

Of course, older workers have plenty of experience for their positions. But they can also offer something else: creativity. It’s a spark Farrell says never goes away. “If you’re creative in your 20s, that creativity will be there in your later years,” he points out. Farrell uses the Oscars as an example. Think about the ages of the nominees. There’s a reason older artists often win awards — they are able to blend the lessons learned from years of practice with their creative energy, resulting in engaging pieces of work.

The Relationship Between Older and Younger Workers

With our current tight labor market, looking to nontraditional employees is more important than ever. But we often think of older workers as at odds with younger ones. The thinking goes that since older workers are more experienced, they’ll prevent younger workers from advancing in their careers.

This is a line of thinking that Farrell calls “fundamentally wrong.” He explains that younger and older workers are actually seeking completely different goals in their careers. While younger workers are studying the organizational depth chart, older workers are typically planning that next chapter. “You still want to work,” Farrell explains. However, “you probably don’t want to stay on the job for another 10.” They may have eyes on switching careers or entering a different segment of the economy — in other words, embracing a new challenge.

Also, studies have actually shown that when workers in their 20s are doing well, older ones do well, too — and vice versa. Additionally, older workers provide a mentorship role to younger workers, who also can teach their counterparts about this dadgum new technology they keep hearing about.

The Industries That Already Get It

Farrell notes that two industries are already successfully incorporating older workers — and offer lessons for those not just trying to navigate the tight labor market, but also looking for the value older workers can bring.

Surprisingly, one of the industries Farrell notes is manufacturing, which has an older-than-average workforce. Farrell recently visited Herman Miller in Zeeland, Michigan, and was especially impressed by one of the company’s programs. The company offers workers the opportunity to take 12 consecutive weeks off. Though workers are not paid during this time, they keep their retirement benefits, health care and years of service. Many of those who take advantage of the program are over 50. According to Farrell, the employees use the time to address family issues, set up a side business, or simply work on a personal project.

The second industry is healthcare. Many hospitals offer part time employment to doctors and nurses, providing the opportunity for older workers to get the psychological benefits of work — and for patients to reap the enormous benefits of an older employee’s years of experience.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

build a better candidate experience

#WorkTrends: Build a Better Candidate Experience

With the rise of LinkedIn and job boards, it’s easier to find qualified candidates now more than ever. However, with a robust job market and so branded recruited experiences, engaging with your candidates is actually even more challenging than it has been in the past.

In recruiting, the candidate experience is more important than ever, from how you engage with a candidate online to actually bringing them in for an interview. To help fill in the gaps, we sat down with an expert on CX, Scott Weaver, a talent acquisition leader at Teradata. He walked us through exactly why he’s “systemizing and operationalizing” the candidate experience at Teradata — and how you can, too.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

The Silver Bullet in Recruiting

As we think about candidate experience, Weaver cautions that, “there is no silver bullet in recruiting.” Weaver, though, believes that optimizing your candidate experience is as close as you can come to finding that elusive silver bullet. “You can systemize and operationalize how you’re treating people,” Weaver explains. However, very few businesses actually do it.

“Systemizing and operationalizing” your candidate experience can be difficult. If you have one or two great recruiters, they are already providing that amazing candidate experience you’re looking for. The issue comes with scaling beyond your two best recruiters. “You need to scale how you treat people. It gets really, really difficult to do that across the board.”

Streamlining and improving your candidate experience also does something great as well. Beyond beating your competitors for talent, it also serves to improve your organization’s brand. “It’s an opportunity to transform your brand from within,” Weaver says. A positive candidate experience — regardless of who is hired — will result in better word-of-mouth and lead to greater benefits down the road.

Lessons From the Candidate Experience at Teradata

Weaver and his team at Teradata have done the “systemizing and operationalizing” to improve their candidate experience, and it provides lessons for all of us.

To scale their model up, they decided to map out every single touch point the organization has with a candidate. From here, they created a checklist within their organization, addressing things from branding to technology to how they can treat candidates better. Weaver also suggests making it incredibly easy to find your job listings on your website. As simple as this may sound, it is something many companies do not do well.

Finally, Weaver addressed another aspect of recruiting that many have overlooked: reaching a candidate’s inner circle. Though we often think of a job board search as the first step in the job hunt, many candidates actually discuss their thoughts first with their inner circle. Marketing a job to someone who isn’t hunting for the job is difficult, but it’s something Weaver and his team have given a lot of thought to. They will soon implement a novel solution: they will have their new hires post on LinkedIn a small post that says, “I just started my job at Teradata. Ask me why.”

What Companies Get Wrong About CX

Weaver also has a few tips for those who are potentially going about redesigning their candidate experience. “Too many people are focused on the fluff,” he says. Don’t focus on providing perks for candidates, he says. Instead, Weaver believes companies should focus on the operation, ensuring consistency through their various recruiters.

But the most important thing, he believes, is to be transparent with your candidates. Let them know where you stand, and provide as much information as possible to the candidate about the position, so that both you and the candidate can determine the best fit. This, he says, is the best way to improve your candidate experience — by demonstrating a respect for the candidate and their time.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

neon garage photo

#WorkTrends: Iterate! How HR Can Get Agile

At the beginning of his career, Ed Muzio was getting frustrated in a meeting that was going nowhere. Though Muzio kept his mouth shut, a friend of his noticed how disgruntled he was. After the meeting, Muzio’s friend told him that he had an obligation to speak up — because if he didn’t, he had no one to blame but himself.

That advice stuck with Muzio and has guided him as he has worked to bring behavioral science to the workplace. Now, Muzio has collected his ideas into the book, “Iterate: Run a Fast, Flexible Focused Management Team.” During our conversation, we broke down the components needed for organizations to become more nimble and agile in today’s constantly changing markets, and the role that HR can play in doing so.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

The Need to Empower Management

Muzio believes that organizations are not nimble enough to react to change, and they need to embrace iteration. “We know it’s the way that complex systems solve problems,” he says. “We need the same level of sophistication in our human organizations.”

This doesn’t mean that all change is massive and large-scale. Often, projects or processes need small course corrections to keep things on track. This is where management comes in. Muzio describes management as an organization’s “feedback system.” However, truly embracing management’s role requires management to be empowered in ways that many organizations have not done.

Muzio says it’s management’s role to evaluate goals and decide what resources to reallocate, should things go off-course. Because managers touch all aspects of an organization — from the C-suite to the interns — they are best positioned to make the course corrections an iterative philosophy requires. “It’s an important purpose that only management can perform,” Muzio explains.

Knock Down the Silos

Muzio believes that one of the key barriers preventing organizations from becoming more nimble is their emphasis on siloing operations. Too often, he says, organizations leave managers to their own devices, each responsible for a separate stage of a process. “If I’m at the top and managing a set of disparate individuals who are managing an even more set of even more disparate individuals, does that lead to innovation?” Muzio asks.

Organizations can emphasize innovation, though, by creating a model where teams are more united and communicate more. He calls this concept “upward-looking success,” and emphasizes that teams should be held more accountable collectively — and not just for meeting individual goals. This encourages different teams to communicate more and breaks down the silos that traditional business organization has created. Because of this cross-communication, implementing the small course corrections organizations need becomes much easier, keeping companies better positioned to meet their goals.

What Can HR Do?

While all of the above advice can easily be applied to an HR department or business, HR departments also have an important role in helping their organizations become more agile.

First is to use data to use data to model your insights and requests. Muzio uses a staffing ramp as an example. As you try to meet your hiring targets, use your data to show how well you are meeting your organization’s forecast. Be up front about whether or not you can hit your target, and also be proactive in giving rationale for changing your target.

Second is to function as an organization’s eyes and ears — and ensure that an organization is focused on its present and future, not on reliving its past. To explain this, Muzio brings things full circle, to a futile, unproductive meeting. Make sure the meeting is focused on the present and future status of the company, not on what has happened before. If you notice things going haywire, Muzio says, nudge the meeting — or whatever it is — in the right direction.

But make sure you bring actionable suggestions to the table yourself. “You can start to say, ‘There are tools we can use to spend less airtime talking and more airtime decision-making about the future,’” Muzio says.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

#WorkTrends: How to Beat Burnout

Leadership and executive coach Beth Benatti Kennedy coaches many of her clients through their own experiences with burnout. It’s something she knows about firsthand. While working as a counselor in Boston public schools, she realized that she was becoming burnt out — even though she was working what she considered her “dream job.”

To combat that burnout, Kennedy enrolled in the Mind-Body Stress Reduction program at the UMass Medical Center, and two years later she started her executive coaching business. Now, she’s the author of “Career Recharge: Five Strategies to Boost Resilience and Beat Burnout,” and she joins us today to discuss the issue of burnout in the workplace. Her actionable insights are something we can all put to use, even if we just have a case of the hump day blues.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

The Burnout Escalator

Over the past few years, we’ve seen increasing awareness around issues of mental health. But it also seems that burnout in the workplace is becoming more of a factor than ever before. Are we just more aware of it, or is burnout actually becoming more of an issue?

Kennedy says that she believes burnout is becoming more common. The biggest reason for this is the way that technology has fundamentally altered the way we communicate. “We’re all so connected that I call it going up the burnout escalator,” Kennedy explains. Our reliance on technology creates stressors that, over time, contribute greatly to burnout.

Kennedy uses a text message as an example. A client requested five minutes of her time to discuss something. Kennedy really did not have the time in the day, but at the same time, she asked herself, “How can I not get back to this text message?”

The other factor Kennedy attributes to the higher rate of burnout is how focused people can be on their careers. She often points out to her clients that they don’t take vacations — and that they take their work a bit too seriously. That isn’t to say that we should be practicing our open mic night routines in the breakroom, but it does mean to remember to bring some levity and perspective to the office.

The Friday Five

If you’re feeling a bit burnt out yourself, there are steps you can take to combat it. According to Kennedy, the key is to effectively attack your symptoms is to begin before they begin to affect your mental health. Once burnout affects your mental health — what Kennedy denotes as “stage five” — addressing the issue becomes much more complicated.

Kennedy coaches her clients through small, actionable steps that make addressing burnout seem like … well, less of something that might burn you out. Every Friday, Kennedy’s clients do what she calls the “Friday Five.” They spend five minutes with Kennedy assessing and reflecting on five core aspects of their lives: well-being, self-awareness, brand, connection and innovation. The goal is not to set gigantic goals, but small incremental steps that can be improved upon week by week. “That’s how we make impact,” Kennedy says. “The problem of some of us just set these huge, lofty goals that are ridiculous.”

These are things you can address with yourself. While some are fairly self-evident, perhaps “brand” is not. But this is simple. It’s not about promoting yourself, but rather about figuring out the best way to make an impact on a weekly basis. Essentially, you are asking yourself what you accomplished that week, with the knowledge that the more effective you are in your position, the better your reputation will be.

What Employers and Managers Can Do

Preventing burnout is not solely the responsibility of individual employees. Employers and managers also need to take preventive measures to best serve their employees, and some more progressive organizations are already beginning to do this.

Kennedy believes that organizations must create an environment that gives employees ownership in decision-making toward their well-being. Kennedy uses the example of telecommuting. For some, working at home two days a week can improve their well-being.

But the empowerment goes beyond choosing where you work. It also means creating a dialogue regarding career decisions. Many businesses have a year-end review with their employees. Kennedy believes checking in so infrequently with employees has a negative effect on morale. She believes the conversation should happen as often as every other month. Talk through career fit, what projects are using an employee’s strengths, and which projects they are struggling with.

But most importantly, use these meetings as a chance to show your employees the ownership they need to have. “Sometimes we feel like the managers need to be the fixer-upper on everything,” she says. “I think as employees we need to be proactive for our own career.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

 

How to build the company of the future HR Transform

#WorkTrends: How to Build the Company of the Future: HR Transform

So what exactly is the company of the future? It’s something we’re all asking ourselves a lot.

That’s why HR Transform’s theme this year is “How to Build the Company of the Future.” The conference is one of my favorite events, and we’re very fortunate to have a sneak peek of this year’s event for you this week on #WorkTrends. We spoke with Samara Jaffee, co-founder and executive director of HR Transform, about the big themes of this year’s conference, and what exactly the company of the future might look like.

Then, we’re joined by one of the speakers from this year’s conference, Ron Storn, chief people officer at Zume. He’s helping build a company of the future right now, and he has some great thoughts on what you can currently do to position your organization for the road ahead.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

 

What to Look For at HR Transform 2019

We talk a lot on #WorkTrends about this era of rapid change in the workplace. Sometimes, it can be difficult to imagine how the workplace will change even more. HR Transform, thankfully, is here to offer us some help. The conference will have four key themes that will help us think about just what’s coming up in the future, and Samara Jaffe joined us to break it all down.

The first theme is the balance between technology and humanity. Technology will give workers more time in the workplace, freeing them from repetitive tasks. It also will do something else, Jaffe says. It will “enable greater human connection to allow us to focus on the human gift that technology really can’t replace,” she says.

Second on the docket is diversity, equity and inclusion — something we all can agree we need more of in the future. Third is the identity of HR. “There are a lot of conversations around the role of HR and the strategic shift that’s underway, within that function, to ensure that there’s a voice of the people at the C suite and the board level,” explains Jaffe.

Last is the future of work. Talent pools are changing; more and more people are working as gig workers. The conference will also look at how employees can be re-skilled and up-skilled in the rapidly-changing workplace.

Hire, Grow, Keep

Ron Storn is one of the thought leaders that will be speaking at HR Transform, and it’s easy to see why. Zume is a great example of a company that is embracing many of the tenets of the future of work that HR Transform will be addressing.

Zume is an organization that brings automation to the food service industry — for example, their business uses robots to pull pizzas out of incredibly hot ovens, eliminating the potential for human injury. Storn describes Zume’s hiring and retention philosophy very simply: “Hire, grow, keep.” The company values opportunities to re-train employees when the need arises, so that it can keep them engaged within the organization.

The company’s focus on automation is not a focus on eliminating jobs, but creating more skilled ones. “It’s all about efficiency and creating more strategic work for individual,” Zorn says. A former line cook for the business now leads its customer support area, and the company has numerous other similar success stories.

“It’s more about the growth of the person,” Storn explains. “If they have this opportunity — and it’s within your company — you’re going to get more retention, and you’re going to get more engaged employees.”

The Future of HR

When asked to look into his crystal ball, Storn has great insights into the future of HR. He reminds us that for all of the holistic concerns we have in our function, that we have to remember the business side come first. “It’s basically about enabling, facilitating and accelerating the overall growth of the company,” he says.

HR has a great opportunity now to be at the forefront of bold, progressive business decisions, he continues. By using its new tools, HR can lead with data-driven, more efficient processes that will demonstrate the function’s increased value to the C suite.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

how to bring people together at work

#WorkTrends: How to Bring People Together at Work

One day labor relations consultant Jason Greer received a call from a manager, asking if he’d lead a diversity training session at his company. When Greer asked why, the manager offered two reasons: “I love the way you communicate,” he said. “And you’re the only black guy that I really know.”

This radical candor actually endeared the manager to Greer, and it set the tone for the approach Greer uses in his diversity training. In addition to his work in labor relations, he’s known nationwide for his diversity training programs. Greer joins us this week for a deep dive on how we can improve diversity training and the importance of committing to the difficult conversations.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

The Challenges of Diversity Training

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been to a diversity training session. They’re not typically something you excitedly circle on your calendar.

But why is that? We all aspire to a more inclusive, diverse workplace. But there’s something about these sessions that can make us uncomfortable, Greer says: We’re not honest with ourselves.

In theory, he says, we’re all treated equally in an organization. We’re judged based on our merits and productivity, regardless of our background. But when we leave, we often associate with people who have backgrounds and ethnic origins that are similar to our own. “People are going home, and they’re going into environments that … look very much like them,” Greer says. “It can be difficult to bridge cultures.”

Diversity training brings this gap out into the open, in a way that for many people can be uncomfortable. “People just don’t want to be honest,” Greer says. They’re scared that expressing their feelings on a matter will ostracize them.

It’s a Catch-22. We have a platform to express opinions openly, but we’re scared that we’ll get in trouble for expressing those feelings openly.

So what can we do?

How to Start the Hard Conversations

Greer’s start in diversity training came from his colleague’s candor. So it’s not surprising that he endorses the same spirit at his trainings.

To get things rolling during a session, he begins with a series of questions that are designed to break the ice around diversity training.

First, he asks how many attendees have been to diversity training. Most hands will go up. Then he asks how many enjoyed the trainings they attended. Hands start to go down. Finally, he asks what they didn’t like about diversity training.

It’s an exercise that sets an expectation for frankness. “It’s just a matter of creating an environment where we can share,” Greer says.

Of course, that doesn’t mean things will go smoothly. But Greer emphasizes that that’s part of the process. “It’s OK to to get angry with each other — as long as we’re doing it constructively,” he says.

Remember How Far We’ve Come

For all the talk about how much we need to do in regard to diversity and inclusion, Greer says the U.S. has come an incredibly long way. He knows this better than anyone — all because of a powerful moment in his life.

In 1991 Greer was 17. His family moved to Dubuque, Iowa, as part of a program to attract minority families to the city. The plan was not as universally well-received as one would hope. “People didn’t like it,” Greer says. “The Klan organized a rally against our family. They burned crosses.”

Greer says that when he tells the story to his children, they can’t even imagine something like that happening. “That in itself is progress,” he says.

Ultimately, Greer says he hopes the conversation regarding diversity and inclusion one day becomes something in the past — because we’ve made even more progress. But in order to get there we can’t just commit to training sessions. We have to commit to the bumps in the road, and dedicate ourselves to smoothing them over. That means being aware of what Greer calls the “internal story of what’s playing in our brain when we encounter other people.”

“When you learn to master that story, you will find that you will actually be more open to other people,” he says. “But at first it starts with you.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

true love heart sparklers

#WorkTrends: Recruiting + Retention = True Love

You know who’s perfect for each other? Recruiting and retention.

So what’s been taking them so long?

It’s February and love is in the air, so it’s time to finally get these two together. In this week’s episode we turn to Ankit Somani, co-founder of end-to-end AI HR recruiter AllyO, to find out how technology is helping to get the love affair going. We’re also joined by Jeanne Meister from Future Workplace, who tells us even more about how we can better connect the recruiting experience with the employee experience.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

They’re Perfect for Each Other

The traditional recruiting-and-retention model splits the two into separate functions. Somani says this is ridiculous. “From a candidate perspective, it doesn’t make sense,” he says. Because organizations have siloed the two apart from each other, companies are actually costing themselves money and time, and it’s difficult to carry over the relationships, data and human capital from recruiting to retention, he says.

But it’s easy to have a smooth transition — just don’t have one at all. Somani says the new recruiting function must become “hiring plus retention.” That means having the same person who is in charge of recruiting an employee also be in charge of training, especially in those critical first few days. Not only does this ensure familiarity, it also creates a trust that helps a new hire transition into the organization.

And it creates equity with a new hire too. “People these days want to work for companies that really care about them,” Somani says. A more streamlined recruiting-and-retention process is a big step toward showing that you care about an employee’s development in your organization.

Use Technology to Help Seal the Deal

Of course, it’s 2019. Our matchmakers aren’t always human. Outside the workplace we use Tinder, and in HR we use artificial intelligence.

AllyO has been assisting companies with their AI technology to marry recruiting and retention, and Somani talked about the company’s experience with the restaurant chain Maggiano’s Little Italy. The chain’s recruitment team was severely understaffed, so it turned to AllyO’s system to help with recruiting. “AllyO became the single source for 80 percent of applicants going through the system,” Somani says. This means applicants were chatting with AllyO from the moment they considered the job to the moment they were hired.

However, the chain was also having issues with retention. Using AllyO’s software, it instituted mandatory new-hire check-ins throughout the first 90 days of employment. Maggiano’s was able to use its findings to improve its training practices and its retention rates.

Another benefit of this new kind of matchmaker is that because of their familiarity with AllyO and its processes, employees were comfortable providing feedback. “Employees are responding to AllyO 50 percent more than they would have responded if we had reached out to them cold,” Somani says.

A Tech Reminder

Somani also offered the reminder that no matter how enamored you may be with your shiny new tech tools for HR, remember that a chatbot isn’t the way to convince someone to take a job. “Bots don’t do that, and that’s where recruiters need to bring in that human element,” Somani says. The automated tools at your disposal are just there to ensure a better, more consistent candidate experience. Ultimately it’s on you, the recruiter, to play matchmaker between candidate and company — and to make sure the marriage is one to brag about.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

This episode is sponsored by AllyO.

Work Advice for the Next Generation

#WorkTrends: Advice for the Next Generation at Work

Karyn Schoenbart

When NPD Group CEO Karyn Schoenbart’s daughter Danielle was 6 years old, she and a friend asked if they could have a sleepover. Instead of saying “yes” or “no,” Schoenbart asked them to give a presentation on why they should have a sleepover.

When your mom is a CEO, sometimes things run a little bit differently. So it’s no wonder that when Danielle entered the advertising industry, she often found herself advising co-workers on how to navigate office politics. She christened her education an MBA — Mom.B.A., that is.

Now Karyn Schoenbart has collected that wisdom in her best-selling book “Mom.B.A.: Essential Business Advice from One Generation to the Next.” Our conversation was enormously enlightening, with insights that any professional can use.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

The Importance of Networking

The first bit of advice Schoenbart says she offers young workers is to be sure that they are networking during their early career. However, workers also need to remember that the worth of your Rolodex — to use an older generation’s term — isn’t based on its size; it’s based on the quality of the contacts that you make. “If you can make a few authentic connections, those can serve you well,” she says.

Of course, putting theory into practice is an another matter entirely. A lot of people dislike networking events, believing them to be exercises in small talk and empty promises. But Schoenbart says that’s the wrong way to approach such events. “It doesn’t have to be small talk,” she says. “It could be thoughtful talk.”

To ensure thoughtful chit-chat, prepare for the event like it’s a job interview. Try to research who will attend. Prepare interesting questions you can ask. They don’t have to be complicated — just asking someone what they’re working on breaks a lot more ice than you’d expect.

Finally, make sure your follow-up is even more thoughtful. “One of my pet peeves is when people follow up on LinkedIn with the generic ‘Let’s connect,’ ” Schoenbart says. Take the time to personalize your message — and never be afraid to ask what you can do for someone. “You never know,” she says. “Sometimes it won’t pay back, but many times it will.”

Rethink the Labels for ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Bosses

We’ve all seen “Office Space” and had bosses who are ineffective and frustrating.

But Schoenbart wonders if our definitions aren’t a bit skewed. “We don’t always realize who’s a good boss and who’s a bad boss,” she says. She cites her first boss as a classic “good boss.” “My boss was incredibly nurturing,” she says, but notes that as she grew in the position his approach actually began to feel stifling. “I ended up having to leave the company because I felt I couldn’t grow.”

At Schoenbart’s second job, her boss was much more emotionally distant. He “could barely give me the time of day,” she says. But the experience ultimately provided a valuable learning experience because it forced her to learn to stand up for herself, become self-motivated and evaluate the quality of her work without the presence of feedback. “Looking back,” she asks, “who was the better boss?”

She says her experience under that second boss provided a foundational lesson that she passed on to her daughter and to the readers of her book: Grow and absorb the lessons you learn working underneath your bosses — all of them. The only way you will grow and prepare yourself for leadership positions is to get out of your comfort zone.

You Never Outgrow Impostor Syndrome

You know that feeling where you think you’re underqualified for whatever it is you’re doing? It’s called impostor syndrome. Even someone as successful as Schoenbart feels it!

The sad reality is that even as we get older, impostor syndrome is one thing that doesn’t fade. Thankfully, Schoenbart has a few suggestions to prove to ourselves that we really do belong.

First, resist the urge to compare yourself to others. “You’re unique,” Schoenbart says.

Second, remember that uniqueness when you think about yourself. Most people are very aware of their weaknesses, but it’s also important to focus on your strengths. “What you’re really good at is also going to be most likely what you love,” she says. “If you can be even better at [them], you can be the best at it then, and that can help propel your career.”

Finally, start a fan file. Whenever you do great work on a project or receive a compliment from a boss or client, put it in the file. Not only will it help cheer you up when you’re feeling down, but it can help you work your way up the ladder. “If there’s an opportunity or a promotion … you can pull out your file and use that to help build your case,” Schoenbart says.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Is AI ready for us

#WorkTrends: Is AI Ready for Us?

Have you ever found out an employee’s references were completely fabricated?

That’s what happened to the Xref team, and it inspired the creation of Xref, an automated reference-checking platform that is an innovator in the use of AI in HR recruiting. Today the Australia-based company has offices in four countries and product offerings in 12 languages.

So who better than Xref’s chief technical officer, Tim Griffiths, to demystify the world of AI for us? Griffiths joined us from Sydney to talk about how HR recruiters can embrace the world of AI, and he provides some great practical advice to get you started.

We also speak with Sarah Wilson, head of people at SmartRecruiters, about the challenges technology presents for hiring, and what we can expect from the future of HR tech.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

How to Embrace AI

AI is still in its infancy, and Griffiths says it’s fine to sit on the sidelines for now and see how things shake out. But if you do decide to jump in, remember that you’re using technology that’s in its very early stages. Things are not going to work perfectly right away. “You’ve got to take a very careful look at the way it’s implemented,” Griffiths says.

This includes analyzing how your AI tools work for you. Griffiths says you should constantly be considering the effects such tools are having on your effectiveness: “Is it enhancing it? Is it augmenting it? Or is it hindering it?”

But remember that AI is not a replacement for decision making. Companies like Xref provide products and services that are simply new twists on old methods. For example, you’re no doubt being swamped with applications. AI tools give you the ability to sort through high volumes of resumes, work that could take days for a non-automated team. “We handle the heavy lifting for you,” Griffiths says, “allowing you to make really good decisions based on the data in front of you, but also get back to the reason why you’re in HR in the first place.”

Education, Education, Education

HR recruiters have an exciting future ahead of them, but it’s a future that will require new skills. When Griffiths talks about the skills we need, he doesn’t get specific. Instead he recommends something more important: an attitude of embracing education.

“The job of a recruiter, really, is understanding some of the new tech that’s coming through — but also what that means,” he says. “It’s really just keeping on top of [your] industry in the area that you are interested in and the software that sits around.”

With AI and technology becoming more and more prevalent, education will be more important than ever. Griffiths predicts that the AI revolution will also bring us more software and sleeker tools, and we’ll need the knowledge to use them properly — and to be able to we can identify tools we actually need vs. things that are just shiny and new.

Technology Is a 2-Way Street

While we’re all excited about technology, Sarah Wilson wants us to remember that recruiters are not the only people with access to new tools. Candidates now have access to more information than ever before. Job websites pair candidates with potential positions with an efficiency humans could never match.

Sound familiar?

That’s right — your candidates are employing AI to guide them to you. Wilson says candidates are also placing more importance on peer references and research, hoping to find an employer that matches their skills and their values. This means your employer brand is even more important, and your employees — and the references they provide — are the most important part of your brand. “If you don’t have great references out there in the market, it can be really, really challenging to attract the right kind of talent for the roles that you have today,” Wilson says.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

This episode is sponsored by Xref.

for hire

#WorkTrends: Why Social Media Has Failed Recruiting

Imagine a world without hashtags, friend requests and cat videos. Pretty difficult, right? That’s how much social media has transformed our lives.

However, there’s something social media hasn’t transformed: recruiting. Even though companies have more opportunities to reach qualified candidates than ever before, the results have not come anywhere close to fulfilling the potential of the power of social media.

This week on #WorkTrends we speak with Michael Webb and Cyndy Trivella of WorkScene, a social media startup focused on recruiting. Webb is the company’s founder and Trivella is its vice president of strategic relations. They break down the reasons that social media hasn’t been a boon to recruiting — but also how you can make it become just that.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

So What’s the Deal?

Social media is a tool that offers recruiters the ability to connect with job seekers directly. Ideally companies set up shop behind an @ symbol, deploy a few witty hashtags and watch the resumes flood in.

If only it were that simple. Social media is not the recruiting tool we’ve all expected. But don’t fret, HR types. Trivella says this one isn’t our fault.

The problem with social media lies with the platforms themselves — they just weren’t designed with recruiting in mind. “Social media as we know it is more suited for the promotion of products and services,” Trivella says. “It doesn’t really tell anyone about the organization’s culture and work environment.”

Branding Is Recruiting

Rethinking social recruiting begins with rethinking the basics, Webb says. How basic? Well, it doesn’t get much more basic than rethinking the importance of the job posting itself.

This isn’t to say that job postings are an outdated concept. Obviously you’re going to need a way to communicate that you have openings at your company. But Webb says the job posting should only be one part of your recruiting strategy. “The job posting should be kind of in the middle of your recruiting funnel,” he says.

Social media has allowed potential hires to learn more about employers than ever before. “We know that as new talent is entering the workforce, they’re not just looking for a position and a paycheck,” Trivella says. “They want to know that their personal mission is in lockstep with the company before they make any attempt at applying for the job.”

Webb says companies can harness social media to use this to their advantage by embracing an inbound recruiting strategy. Inbound recruiting is a new term in our field, but it’s actually very simple: It’s using the power of social media to tell the story of what it’s like to work at your company. You can show off your company’s work environment and also express its culture and beliefs. Think of it as a recruiting brand.

If you’re not using inbound recruiting already, it’s easy to get started. “The nice thing is you have the content,” Webb says. As examples of content you already have, he cites photos of community service events or even just sharing information about an exciting new project. “Really, it’s endless,” he says.

The Talent Community

Of course, there’s still an issue with social media: those clunky platforms. But this doesn’t mean companies need to limit themselves to what’s available. You can extend and leverage your inbound recruiting strategies into your own platforms, known as talent communities.

These platforms allow companies to engage with both passive and active job seekers, creating a relationship before a job seeker even applies for a job. “Talent communities put recruiters in the driver’s seat by giving them more of a proactive role,” Trivella says.

Talent communities also solve another problem for companies. “Great people aren’t always looking at the same time you need them,” Webb says. By marrying inbound recruiting with a proprietary platform, you can create your own pool of interested candidates, and you can engage with these candidates on a variety of levels. “Your online recruiting strategy becomes less transactional,” Webb adds. All a company has to do is remain engaged with the members of its talent community, knowing that it has a pipeline of interested candidates who have a much higher likelihood of being a cultural fit than if the company was searching the old-fashioned way.

Try WorkScene

Finally, we have a special treat for the #WorkTrends audience. If you’re interested in trying a new social media platform designed for recruiting, reinforcing your employer brand and showcasing your company culture, go to WorkScene.com to create a FREE account, or upgrade to a professional account by entering promo code TC2019 to receive 50 percent off for six months.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

#WorkTrends: Who Should You Hire?

Who should you hire? It might be the most important question you ask at work. Forget meeting your quarterly goals or expanding into new markets; if you don’t find the right people for your team, you’re going to be out of the ballgame pretty quickly.

That’s why this week we have double the insight for you. We’re joined by two amazing guests who are working toward creating a less stressful, more predictable hiring process. Our first guest, Carol Quinn, is the pioneer behind motivation-based interviewing (MBI), a re-imagination of the job interview.

Our second guest, Nick Martin, is director of global products and analytics at Aon. He tells us about the doors that technology is opening for us in assessment. And though both of our guests approach the hiring process from different perspectives, they have very similar thoughts on what you should be looking for when evaluating candidates.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

The Problem with Interviews

We’ve all been there: We hire a highly qualified candidate whose interview blows us away — but whose subsequent job performance leaves much to be desired. It’s confusing, frustrating and sometimes just plain confounding. How can someone who checked off every box be so disappointing?

To Quinn there’s a reason for this. “Skill level alone does not determine future performance,” she says. “If it was about skill, we could just hire anyone, not interview them, teach them the skill and everybody would be high-performers.”

That’s why Quinn developed MBI, which she says assesses candidates more effectively than the behavior-based interview model we’re all so familiar with. MBI addresses things that Quinn says behavior-based interviews can’t. “What’s missing is the motivation piece,” she says. “Behavior-based interviewing will not allow an interviewer to accurately assess a candidate’s motivation.”

She has another word for it, too: “attitude.”

Why the Attitude?

So what does Quinn mean by “attitude”? “It’s a person’s response to adversity and difficulty, and on-the-job challenges and obstacles,” she says.

You don’t need to take many leaps of logic to understand that someone’s ability to handle the unexpected is important to a company’s success. MBI offers a methodology for evaluating these skills in a candidate. And it’s designed specifically to address the issue of being fooled by Oscar-caliber performances in job interviews “That’s that the whole goal, to see the difference between the true high-performers and the pretenders,” Quinn says, noting that her research shows that the “actors” we’re trying to avoid actually answer MBI questions much differently compared with the high-performing candidates we’re seeking.

Although MBI may sound a bit daunting, it’s just a different strategy. Your interviews will take the same amount of time; all that changes are the categories of assessment. There are numerous resources available to learn more about MBI. Courses are easy to find, both in-person and online, and Quinn has written a book that breaks down her methodology.

Even More Shiny New Tools

So we all want highly motivated candidates. But what if one of those candidates wears pajamas to their interview? Martin says some companies are already allowing this, by employing digital interviews, where candidates complete self-administered assessments, all from the privacy of their own home — and, yes, perhaps while lounging in their sleepwear.

As bizarre as it might sound, Martin says these tools actually allow a company to evaluate candidates more efficiently. The reason isn’t the automation behind the process, he says. It’s that the process creates a better candidate experience. “You want to meet them on their time and in their space,” he says. Taking things a step further, some assessments even incorporate texting and instant messaging in order to simulate the digital communications methods we have in the modern workplace.

But this doesn’t mean that technology eliminates the need for human interaction. These tools simply enhance the evaluation process, giving organizations new means of collecting data on candidates more effectively and efficiently. They also save everyone time, and as Martin points out, organizations save something else as well: money.

The Soft Skills

Of course, an innovator like Martin also has his own opinions on what organizations should look for when hiring. For example, he says companies need to look beyond traditional skills assessments and focus more on soft skills. “Without jumping into a particular job or role, I would say problem solving, decision making, oral communication and collaboration are probably some of the top skills that employers, or hiring officials, should probably keep an eye out for,” he says.

On this topic he sounds a lot like Quinn — they may use different terminology but they’re speaking about the same traits. “If you have good decision-makers, you can train people from a technical perspective,” Martin says. “You’ve got people who can be tossed in any sort of situation and figure it out.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

#WorkTrends: What Will Change at Work in 2019?

#WorkTrends: What Will Change at Work in 2019?

Happy New Year! I hope that your holidays provided you the recharge you needed to get 2019 off to a great start.

It’s the “new” in “new year” that we’re talking about this week on #WorkTrends. We’re all wondering how 2019 is going to be different from 2018, and I’m not talking about the new coffee machine your boss has surprised you with.

marylene delbourg delphisThis week we speak with Marylene Delbourg-Delphis, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and the author of “Everybody Wants to Love Their Job,” about how work is going to change in 2019. Her answer? It’s not going to — unless you do something about it.

It wasn’t the answer I was expecting, but our conversation was a powerful reminder that the future of work isn’t defined by our fancy tools; it’s defined by the people who use them.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

So What’s the Future of Work?

The way Delbourg-Delphis sees it, the future of work comes down to one word: automation. And while that word itself can scare people, she doesn’t see things in such apocalyptic terms. “Many jobs can be mapped onto new jobs. So the future is not doomsday,” she says.

Of course, there’s another change coming as well. Baby boomers are aging out of the workplace, and millennials have taken their place as the largest cohort, with Generation Z not too far behind. Soon the workplace will be filled with young, techno-savvy whippersnappers who can’t imagine life without smartphones and hashtags. The office will never look the same.

Or will it?

Change Isn’t a Given

Assuming that work itself will magically transform because of technology and generational change is a mistake, Delbourg-Delphis says. She admits that sounds counter-intuitive. “It’s logical to believe that [work] will change,” she says. “Digital transformation is already here for us as consumers.” But she says there’s something standing in the way of true change at work: the way things have always been done. “We should not underestimate the status quo,” Delbourg-Delphis says.

The status quo, she notes, has little to do with workplace demographics, because the issue is structural. Despite the fact that the U.S. has transitioned to a service economy, organizations still operate on a hierarchical model that dates back to an industrial economy. This model can isolate leaders from their employees, and it can lead to stale thinking that discourages innovation and disruption.

To Delbourg-Delphis, change has only one source. “Companies don’t innovate,” she says. “People do.”

The Key to Change

What companies must do, Delbourg-Delphis says, is think about their employees’ engagement — and make sure they love their jobs. It sounds like common sense, but the stakes are quite high. Delbourg-Delphis’ research shows that if employees are unhappy, productivity drops by 30 percent.

She says engagement has three categories. Maintaining these, she believes, is essential to creating an organization that is both positive and dynamic.

The first is personal engagement. Making sure employees are motivated is about more than just giving them prime desk space. “It’s very important for employees to have skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy and feedback,” she says. Failure to give employees any of these risks alienating them from the organization.

Second is interpersonal engagement, or team engagement. Employees often work in teams, and part of the way employees define their roles at an organization is by their interactions with peers. Clear lines of communication within a team, as well as with other teams, is paramount to creating the respect and trust employees need to feel toward one another.

Finally, there’s collective and societal engagement. You may know this by another term — culture — but Delbourg-Delphis defines culture differently than others do. Culture, she says, has nothing to do with a company’s so-called values. In fact, culture has little to do with management at all. “A culture,” she explains, “is what employees feel.” If employees aren’t free to express their emotions, a company’s culture can quickly turn toxic.

The Growing Role of HR

If people are key to driving innovation and change across an organization, then there’s perhaps no greater piece to ensuring transformation than HR, she says. “In the future I see a much, much bigger role for HR,” Delbourg-Delphis says. “HR should be in charge of the health of the human infrastructure just as the CTO is in charge of the technology infrastructure. They are the human infrastructure designers.”

This means that the key to driving innovation across an organization is for HR to ensure that employees are both happy and productive. So while your fancy new enterprise software may be great, HR should be ensuring that these tools are put to use in ways that enhance the three categories of employee engagement. Making sure these tools bring employees closer to the organization is key to driving success.

But HR also needs to remember that it has a responsibility to grow and challenge itself. Delbourg-Delphis says the most important skill an HR practitioner can have now is “an endless ability to learn.” She suggests delving into organizational psychology. “Academia has created a phenomenal body of research that we can leverage literally every day,” she says.

As we’ve discussed, the stakes are high. Keeping your employees happy is about more than just a pleasant workplace. It’s the key to driving change itself. It’s a fascinating, practical way to think about a word we often define far too loosely, and maybe it’s a New Year’s resolution for all of us in HR.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Best of #WorkTrends 2018

The Best of #WorkTrends 2018

Happy holidays! To celebrate the end of the year we’re looking back to our favorite #WorkTrends conversations in 2018. We put together out first ever Best of #WorkTrends, with excerpts from our favorite conversations throughout the year.

As we sifted through the conversations we’ve had in 2018, two big themes stuck out to us. I’d argue they’re the most significant challenges we face in HR today: building better connections at work and the future of HR.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Best of #WorkTrends 2018. Congratulations to our selections! You can listen to the two-part special episode below.

Part 1: Building More Authentic Connections at Work

Part 2: What’s Next for HR

Keep reading for our top takeaways from our featured guests.

Why Do We Feel So Far Apart?

Leadership coach Lisa Prior shared a statistic that most of us know all too well: 70 percent of the workforce is disengaged. It’s a stupefying number that seems to contradict so many of the trends that have made our working lives more personally convenient. In a world with flex hours and remote work, shouldn’t we be more engaged?

But maybe there are some reasons why it’s especially difficult to foster that personal connection at work:

  • Workers are changing jobs faster than ever before.
  • Companies are relying more on the Hollywood model (bringing talent together for short-term projects), as opposed to a traditional corporate hierarchy.
  • We’re seeing more and more gig-based work.

To workplace strategist Erica Keswin, the answer is much simpler: We’re overly reliant on electronic communication. “Many of us really want to get to inbox zero, and we’re prioritizing that over some of these human connections,” Keswin says.

Put the ‘Human’ Back Into Human Resources

The harsh reality is that it’s very easy to see our co-workers as objects — human extensions of their email addresses or Slack profiles. “Your employees do not just exist to do the job,” author Kimberly White says. “They have their own backstories. They have their own perspectives.”

You’ll notice many of our guests emphasize the importance of face-to-face interactions. But they also talk a lot about the responsibility of leadership to set an example with their behavior. Leaders must be aware that their behavior will be modeled throughout an organization.

“Building a culture occurs from the top down,” emotional intelligence trainer Valerie Sargent says. “There’s an emotional culture to every company, and unfortunately a lot of leaders don’t know what kind of emotional culture they’re creating.”

But engagement with your co-workers is only part of renovating the connections in your workplace. A more connected organization also engenders a greater sense of trust among employees.

Leadership expert Heather Hanson Wickman has a helpful exercise to build these bonds. She suggests taking a look at your calendar and seeing what tasks you can assign to someone else: “Is there a decision you run into this week that someone else can take on, that you don’t have to take on, and actually they can do and maybe learn something through the process?” Doing so not only empowers an employee but it also gives her the tools to thrive and grow.

Preparing for Change

Another challenge is the future of HR itself. The pace of change in our industry has already tested many of our assumptions about what HR is supposed to be about. Dawn Burke, founder of Dawn Burke HR Consulting, has worked in HR for 20 years. She looked back with us on the evolution of the industry. “The old HR function was one that was really driven by compliance,” she says. But now HR is multifaceted, with an emphasis on professional development as much as ticking the right boxes on forms.

Ready or not, the future is going to be different. Disruptive technologies are coming, and they may cause serious tension at your workplace. Many people will be threatened by new technology, feeling that it could cost them their job.

That’s why HR professional Ryan Higginson-Scott emphasizes patience when proposing changes. Don’t fight with those who resist, he says: “Help them find the value in change.” It’s key to a smooth transition, and it will ensure a greater sense of respect as your organization navigates the road ahead.

The ‘A Word’

Automation is the dreaded A word. We hear so much about it, but it’s already changing HR. One of our most fascinating conversations this year was with Carisa Miklusak, whose company Tilr is automating the application and selection process. It’s worth a listen.

I do understand the skepticism surrounding automation. After all, it rarely seems like robots in science fiction movies are looking after humanity’s best interests. But as HR tech expert Anna Ott explains, automation isn’t here to replace our jobs; it’s here to make our jobs better — and to make it easier for HR practitioners to do the work that matters. “When I speak to HR people, most of them tell me that they have signed up for this job because they want to work with people,” she says.

Automation presents an opportunity to get rid of the forms and box-checking that we associate with the Old HR. “Anything that automates processes and takes the admin work of HR is definitely something that we all appreciate,” Ott says.

That’s ironic, right? Technology is creating barriers between people at work, but it may also offer tools we need to break down those barriers. Ben Eubanks, author of “Artificial Intelligence for HR,” agrees. He foresees a future where automation creates more fulfilling careers for employees.

Soon, Eubanks predicts, organizations will have tools to help them better identify candidates internally for open positions, especially unconventional candidates who may not make it to the shortlist when a human being is the one sorting through resumes. “Maybe [the candidate has] a 10 or 20 percent skill gap,” Eubanks says. With training, that employee could be prepared for a new role, and discover an exciting new challenge and career path. And promoting from within costs roughly one-sixth what it does to hire externally. Talk about value.

So who knows? Maybe all we need are some robots to get us to come together.

We’ll see you next year. But for now, happy holidays!

#WorkTrends: How Citrix Is Redefining the Modern Work Experience

#WorkTrends: How Citrix Is Redefining the Modern Work Experience

The miracle of working today is that you’re just as likely to be reading this from your company office as from your home, the beach or in the air. And it all can be on the company’s time and dime.

A 2017 study found that about 3 percent of Americans worked from home at least half of the time, with the trend most common among baby boomers, and that’s just one of the big ways in which the world of work has changed recently. It can get confusing and a bit surprising for companies trying to adapt to what workers want.

Tim Minahan, chief marketing officer at Citrix, is here to help us figure it out on this week’s episode of #WorkTrends. Minahan knows a thing or two about how the way people work is changing. Together we looked at some of the major trends affecting the skills companies need, the places where employees work and how technology can help or get in the way of accomplishing our goals.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Skills: Addressing the Digital Gap

The biggest skill set change we discussed is also the one that’s most common in our daily lives: digital technology. For the average worker it means learning more systems and tools. For the company it involves training and hiring to ensure everyone has the tools and skills they need.

“There was a recent Harris poll that I thought was particularly telling where they surveyed about 1,500 CEOs around the globe,” Minahan says. “The number one barrier to growth that CEOs identified was not just access to talent but, interestingly enough, access to developer talent. And … if every business is becoming a digital business, then of course developer talent is at a premium.”

He points to this as one of the biggest aspects of the talent crisis. Solving it not only requires embracing the many different places we work but also ensuring that people can collaborate in successful ways. Companies should look for ways to help employees be more productive, without burdening them with more requirements.

Space: Work Is ‘Wherever You Need It’

Thinking about the places we work provides one clear revelation: There’s no such thing as a typical day anymore. More people are working from multiple locations, whether that’s at HQ or in a home office, reading at the gym or catching up on email during a commute. Planes, trains and automobiles all play a role in our daily work lives.

“It seems every week is an illustration of that distributed work style,” says Minahan, who was joining us from Tokyo. “My team is literally everywhere. While we have our headquarters in Florida, we have major sites in Raleigh, Santa Clara and obviously our global team as well. So work really happens wherever you need it to.”

Companies might want to consider a mix of physical and digital spaces to allow work, as well as offer the technology that lets people work where they prefer, Minahan says. He points to a Gallup report that says employees with flexible work schedules are more engaged, and that flexibility includes both time and place.

Engagement: Productivity Vs. Complexity

Employee engagement came with the biggest surprise, especially if we think about these new digital workspaces. Most offices now have plenty of tech that allows us to work from anywhere, communicate, share files and engage in social channels. It may seem like having the right tools is all people need to be productive, but that’s not necessarily the case.

“Despite all that investment in technology, our productivity, U.S. productivity, on the whole, has continued to trend down, and it’s at some of its lowest productivity gross overall,” Minahan says. “There’s a lot of different conjecture on what’s causing this. But at the end of the day, it’s actually complexity. There’s just too many apps, too many different channels, too much content switching that makes all of us less productive and is contributing to this disengagement we’re seeing with the American workforce.”

He suggests that companies look at enterprise applications to see what might be adding too many screens or to-dos that get in the way of completing tasks. Prioritize tools that provide quick access to tasks and the insights that workers need to be productive.

“We spend a good part of our work week, about 20 percent of it, actually just searching for the information we need,” Minahan says.

The Gig Future

The culmination of these skills, location and productivity changes will lead to a significant increase in hiring from the gig economy for companies of all sizes, he says.

“Leading companies are beginning to blur the lines between full-time employees, gig workers and contractors. They’re moving toward these pools of talent where they understand the individual skills,” Minahan says. “They can rapidly bring them together to solve particular business issues. And they give them a digital workspace environment in which they can engage with one another regardless of where they are around the world.”

Once the solution is found, he says, those teams can be quickly dissolved to maximize efficiency and affordability. It’s an interesting look at the future and just one of the predictions Minahan gave us for how things will change within the next five years at Citrix and in the larger workforce.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

This episode is sponsored by Citrix.

#WorkTrends: Diversity in Practice

The evidence continues to pile up: Diversity pays.

Whether you’re in the heart of Silicon Valley or elsewhere, diversity at work provides a greater breadth of thought, experiences and approaches, and it’s becoming more important than ever in business.

But it can be difficult to move beyond the buzzwords and generate real, long-lasting change. On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends we talk with Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, a diversity champion and chief human resources officer at Symantec, to help understand the path to success.

She offers the kind of open, honest conversation we need. “I’ve never had to rationalize or make a business case about why four white guys are better than a diverse set of employees,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. “So why should I have to make a case for why diversity is a good decision?”

We also speak with Rania Anderson, diversity expert and author of “WE: Men, Women, and the Decisive Formula for Winning at Work” about her framework to help men and women be more inclusive, support diversity and work better together.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Defining Diversity at Work

“Diversity is really about inclusion,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. “While numbers are important, and they are really the outcome you are driving toward, it’s about the right kind of environment that you create.”

Cappellanti-Wolf says your goal should be to have a place where people want to come to work, feel like they contribute, are able to learn and stick around. “Create that kind of landscape so that it happens naturally,” she says.

Part of her work at Symantec includes an overhaul of diversity strategy and creating that inclusive environment. This involves hiring and promotion but also how the company approaches building its business units.

For example, Cappellanti-Wolf says the company looked at data showing how women are very strong at “solution selling” — the long game that focuses on a portfolio instead of trying to get an immediate sale. Because solution selling is central to the company’s growth, Symantec is creating an initiative to bring more women into its sales organization.

“Not only is it the right thing, but they help propel the business,” she says.

Stumbling Is Normal

If you’re struggling with your diversity program, you’re not alone. Cappellanti-Wolf says it’s universal, even though industries like tech make the news more than others.

“We’re all struggling with the same challenges in terms of representation mix and if we have the right capabilities to go after the right talent,” she says. “For us it’s really about how do we think about the addressable market that we have, and how do we start to cultivate and build those relationships.”

The best way to start creating relationships and avoid cultural mistakes is to get leadership on board. Bring leadership in from the beginning so there’s always buy-in for diversity efforts, she says. Symantec is “building inclusive leadership muscles at the top because if you don’t have leadership support, these things fail,” she says.

Putting Hiring First

“It starts at the hiring process,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. “That’s where it really starts to show that you’re serious about this.”

A major goal for hiring practices is to root out bias. She says managers will need training on how to think holistically about candidates. No one is a perfect fit, so the emphasis is on identifying where manager training and employee mentoring can make up the difference. Many people will need to learn how to open up the pipeline to more perspectives and experiences.

“We’re going to mandate that before a requisition can be closed, you have to have shown that you had a diverse slate,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. “You have to open up the candidacy for people to be considered for the role.”

Succession planning also generates problems because many people are inclined to hire someone that they think is like them. “You don’t want to hire in your own image, because if you have homogenous thinking on a team you’re not going to get your best results,” she says.

Advice for Your Office

Cappellanti-Wolf says companies should strive to build a culture of servant-leadership to make their diversity efforts a success and to attract or maintain valuable team members.

“You’ve got to lead that way because there are too many competing jobs out there,” she says. “If you don’t create a place where people want to come because they know you’re going to be there for them, then game over.”

To achieve that result, she recommends a two-pronged approach:

  1. Do your math. Know your current population and what the market near you looks like. Look for new opportunities and talent pools. Then set goals that are achievable based on your hiring.
  2. Hold your leadership accountable. “This is not an HR initiative; it’s a business initiative,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. Leadership is what drives employee retention, so they’ve got to be on board and trained to help your company succeed.

And that’s only the beginning. Cappellanti-Wolf provided even more thoughts on the tactics and data she used to measure these outcomes, and how to create that foundation. Be sure to stick around for when she pulls out the crystal ball to give us predictions for diversity in the next decade.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

worktrends how to help people reach their full potential at work

#WorkTrends: How to Help People Reach Their Full Potential at Work

We all demand love in some form in our personal lives, but we skimp on asking for it at work. Treating people as a commodity instead of focusing on relationships is a surefire path to burnout and low long-term productivity, says Jason Lauritsen, an author, entrepreneur, corporate HR leader and consultant.

In this episode of #WorkTrends, Lauritsen shares how performance management could be the key to unlocking major wins for employers and their employees, but only if everyone is treated right.

We also speak with Dr. Pamela Howze of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions to clear up misconceptions about apprenticeships, mentorship and how employers in a range of industries are embracing staff who don’t have a college degree.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Work Is a Relationship, Not a Contract

Showing up every day, creating connections at the office and in the industry, and countless interpersonal interactions are part of the daily experiences of employees. These elements are part of what will drive an employee to higher performance and bigger contributions.

“I don’t believe that it’s a matter of opinion; I think it’s a matter of fact that work is a relationship for the employee,” Lauritsen says. “It’s things like feeling valued, and trust, and knowing someone at work cares about me, and feeling appreciated, and all those things. Those are relational constructs.”

Unfortunately, many workplaces are oriented to treat a job as a contract with the employee. This can be seen in job descriptions, policy manuals, performance appraisals and more.

“It’s all about making sure your organization is getting their money’s worth out of what the employee owes them,” Lauritsen says. Employees are seeking a healthy relationship, which motivates them to better performance. But as an employee, he says, “all I hear is compliance-driven messaging and have compliance-driven interactions. It’s like, no wonder engagement sucks. No wonder it feels gross.”

Relationships Are Work Too

Creating a positive relationship in the workplace requires a specific focus on love and valuing people, he says, and companies should invest in creating this skill set in their leadership.

“As a general rule we aren’t great at relationships,” Lauritsen says. “Look at divorce rates. Go look at how people are interacting with each other in social media. Look at the national discourse and the decline of trust and all this. We’re not doing a good job of helping people learn how to be in a relationship with one another. You come into the workplace and the stakes are higher. There’s money involved now. It just amplifies how much we suck at relationships.”

His biggest piece of advice to determine how to adjust to this type of thinking is to look at interactions through the lens of a personal relationship. Ask yourself how an interaction, training or another approach would go over if you used it on someone you cared about in your personal life.

“If it would hurt the relationship then you probably should stop doing that to employees too. Figure out how to do it in a way that builds a relationship,” Lauritsen says.

Everything Is About Performance

Improving the relationship with employees will require companies and HR professionals to reframe their approach to engagement and performance, Lauritsen says.

“Employee engagement is the fuel to unlock better performance,” he says. That connection is extremely important, and “framing employee experience and employee-engagement in context of performance is really critical. Let’s be honest, executives don’t really care about engagement. They care about performance.”

To keep the relationship beneficial, both employee and employer must understand their roles and the overarching need for that relationship. Performance is the organizational imperative driving the relationship. “Without the performance imperative, you don’t need to exist,” he says. “We have to produce a product or a service that is of value to someone else. … That’s the lifeblood. That’s the oxygen, the blood, the whatever that keeps the organization alive. Everything is about performance.”

And a Little Bit of Controversy

Lauritsen stirs the pot toward the end of our conversation when he says that the 360-degree review, the way it is commonly done today, is “the most harmful HR practice ever invented.” When this extensive pile of feedback is dropped on someone, and it contains a negative comment or concern, everyone is a suspect. “It’s like the mole, you know? You’ve got to sort out who the mole is,” he says. “It’s just a terrible, awful, trust-killing exercise that I think needs to be rethought and redone.”

He also shared some chief reasons why The Motley Fool gets employee love and respect just right. It’s worth a listen.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

#WorkTrends: Why We Need More Humble Leaders

#WorkTrends: Why We Need More Humble Leaders

Nearly everyone has worked for an egomaniacal boss; by the end of this sentence you’ll be picturing yours in the back of your head. That’s hardly ever a pleasant experience, but it highlights what good leadership should look like, says Bill Treasurer, chief encouragement officer at Giant Leap Consulting and co-author of the new book “The Leadership Killer.”

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, Treasurer shares his experience in building successful leadership roles and culture, and why humility is the key to it all.

We also talk to Jonathan Richards, the CEO of breatheHR, who has a company culture pledge you can use to make your staff and values more impactful.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Hubris and the First Rule of Leadership

Treasurer says the biggest risk to companies from their leadership is hubris, often called arrogance. It’s overconfidence mixed with an inflated ego that becomes a danger to itself and especially to the people that the person is leading.

“Most of us, by the middle of life, have worked with a leader that we wouldn’t care to work for again, and nearly always it comes down to the arrogance that that leader has,” Treasurer says.

Arrogance and that feeling of knowing everything without needing input or guidance from anyone else is often the root of many business problems, he says. This can include leaders who are incompetent, intimidating and ungracious. Treasurer says this violates the first rule of leadership: “Leadership’s not about the leader. It’s about the people being led.”

You’re in the Sandbox Too

Being humble and ditching the ego can help people achieve one very important aspect of leadership: Being a good role model for the rest of us and being someone we aspire to be like. That also means passing the “authenticity detectors” of people on your team or in a meeting, Treasurer says.

“They also have to play nice in the sandbox,” he says. “They have to be able to bring people with them so that people want to follow them. And that means not alienating people.”

Humility Sets the Team Up for Success

Much of Treasurer’s work involves creating leadership training that’s designed to build stronger teams and companies. He says he has learned a few surprising lessons, including about what people expect their legacy as a leader to be.

“When I do these leadership programs, I often will ask people at the beginning of the program, ‘What is it that you’re wanting to get done with your leadership? Like if you’re able to project out 20 years from now and you’re looking back to your career as a leader, what do you hope will have happened?’

“And the most common answer that I hear is that they have created other leaders. That they’ve left a legacy of pulling out the leadership in others,” Treasurer says.

He’s also heard the exact opposite, where someone says their personal experience and expertise is what the rest of the program attendees need to hear. That goes over about as well as “a big thing of stale cheese.”

Ask for the Best Way to Disagree

Not everyone is blessed with a truly humble boss, but Treasurer says you shouldn’t just throw your hands up if that’s the case. There’s a lot of arrogance in the world, and you’re going to run into it at some point. What you can do, he says, is start by establishing a personal relationship with that boss.

That relationship should be followed by learning what your leader’s goals are and what results they’re seeking. “That’s what leaders fixate on, and that’s what bosses fixate on,” he says. “And then when you see a behavior that you think is out of check, you should go to them and express to them how that behavior is impeding their results and connect it to their goal and goal attainment. And if their own behavior is, in fact, inhibiting their ability to get to their goal faster, then they’re going to pay a lot more attention.”

Be diplomatic and ask about the best way to provide feedback that you think will help, he says. “Say, ‘Give me some coaching. What’s the best way to disagree with you in a way that your ears will be receptive to it and not see it as disrespect?’ ”

Common ground requires coaching from your boss as well as the ability to help them be accountable.

Pledge to Make It Part of Company Culture

Treasurer’s thoughts on being a humble boss dovetail nicely with our discussion with breatheHR’s Richards about how companies can support their workforce by committing to establishing a strong culture. He says a company pledge can build a strong rapport with a workforce and even help them get behind leadership.

Taking a pledge to improve company culture is a way to start communication between staff and leadership. “So [leaders] should go out and listen to what their people are saying. They should ask some good questions and then just start listening,” Richards says.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

 

WorkTrends: How to Manage the Modern Workforce

#WorkTrends: How to Manage the Modern Workforce

On this episode of #WorkTrends we’re thinking through a very common challenge these days: successfully managing the modern workforce. How do you stay connected with your team and give people the tools they need to be successful? We hear from Sean Jackson, a former Marine who’s on a mission to make work better by empowering talent.

Jackson is the founder and CEO of employee directory and workforce data company Sift. He says that when he transitioned into the corporate world, he discovered that too many people don’t get the freedom they need to thrive. He offers advice on how to manage the modern workforce and set our teams up for success.

We also talk to author Kyle Nel about how he led massive behavioral change at Lowe’s.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

‘Strategic Corporals’

Jackson says that while many people have a vision of the military as a rigid, top-down management structure, the reality is much more complex. In fact, he says, the modern military is predicated on giving more freedom of action to leaders down the organizational chart because those low-level leaders are often away from their commanders and without reliable communication. In battlefield conditions, the ability to make quick, effective decisions is an essential element of success. It’s this approach that underpins the concept of the “strategic corporal.”

In the military, the lowest rank with direct reports is a corporal, who Jackson notes can often be quite young — people who join the military at 18 can find themselves operating as a manager by age 19. “In the military, at the end of the day, they’re just concerned with effectiveness, and if every decision you made had to be given by order by somebody up the chain of command, you’re not going to be able to figure anything out,” he says.

He says the military today is making an effort to better equip leaders at a much more junior level — workers the corporate world often doesn’t allow to make strategic decisions. But he says this approach is similar to what some agile startups are doing.

“They’re laying out commander’s intent, laying out a mission or vision that their soldiers or their employees are going to execute, and then they’re empowering all of their leaders in the organization to fulfill that mission and not trying to fill in the blanks so much,” he says. “They’re actually leaving a lot of white space to let smart people who are closer to actions and closer to information make the decisions to achieve that mission.”

Putting Handcuffs on Talent

Jackson says that when he transitioned into the corporate world, the biggest surprise was how hierarchical it was compared with what he experienced in the military.

“The military’s kind of notorious for being bureaucratic — and, to be sure, there are a lot of forms to fill out and a lot of acronyms,” he says. “But getting into the corporate world, in some ways I felt like I had less control.”

Jackson was a sergeant by age 24, commanding 48 Marines in Afghanistan. But in his move to the corporate world he found himself an individual contributor with more many more restrictions on what he could and couldn’t do. It’s a reality that he says prevents the top talent in too many organizations from thriving and contributing all they can.

“It was really interesting to me that corporations are desperately trying to hire the smartest and brightest people they can with these amazing skill sets that frankly they don’t have internally — then when they get there, they handcuff them with a whole bunch of bureaucracy and rules and regulations,” he says.

Leaning Toward Transparency

Both in the HR tech space and more broadly, Jackson says he’s inspired by newer organizations that are committed to the concept of hyper-transparency, whether that’s sharing executive salaries or other strategic data with lower-level employees.

“I think we are definitely leaning toward transparency,” he says. “Like the military, it’s not because it’s fun or it makes you feel good; it’s because it’s more efficient when you’re expecting people to be making decisions at lower and lower levels. If they don’t have access to that information easily, quickly and simply, they’re not going to be able to make these informed decisions, so I think the most progressive companies are saying ‘Hey, let’s give people the data and information they need to do their jobs and then that’s going to make us more effective in the long run.’ ”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

 

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

#WorkTrends: The Evolved Executive

The way we work is leading to stressed-out employees, unfulfilled leaders and unhappy teams — and author Heather Hanson Wickman is adamant that there is a better way.

On this episode of #WorkTrends she tells us why she wrote her new book — “The Evolved Executive: The Future of Work Is Love in Action” — and why caring matters more than ever in the modern workplace. We also hear from a leader who is completely rethinking the way we work.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Toxic Workplaces

Wickman says she spent more than a decade climbing the corporate ladder in an effort to achieve a level of success that she thought would ultimately be fulfilling. The journey, however, left her questioning, in a fundamental way, how organizations treat their people.

“Unfortunately what I found, along with a lot of good learning, was a world of work that was full of toxic management practices to keep us in control, to keep our egos alive, to keep status in place in a workplace where we were spending so much time just covering up who we are, covering up what we thought our weakness is, than we were actually doing our work,” she says.

Toward the end of her corporate journey, Wickman says, she started to see these toxic management practices increasingly affecting people in physical ways, such as migraines that sent people to the ER, heart conditions and severe stress reactions.

“I just came to this feeling and realization that the way that we’re working isn’t working anymore,” she says. “In doing some of the research early on for this book, I found a stat that said basically many workplaces today are as harmful as secondhand smoke, and that really sent me back [to realize] we have to do something dramatically different here.”

After taking some time to re-evaluate where she was in her career and what she wanted to do in her life and work, Wickman realized she wanted to be a part of designing a different way of work, helping organizations evolve through better leadership practices.

What’s Love Got to Do with Business?

“Most of our management practices that we use today really are still rooted in this old paradigm of command and control,” Wickman says. “If we dig a little bit deeper in that space, command and control are all based in fear.”

She says if we want to overcome common workplace fears and create a new fundamental experience in the workplace, we have to look in the opposite direction, and that’s where loves come in. “I think about it in terms of embracing love, the beliefs that foster love, practices that embody love and the words that really share love, is the magic for building organizations of the future,” she says.

Wickman acknowledges that the word “love” can carry considerable baggage for some people, so she says some managers successfully employ the concept as “care” or “joy” — caring about their team or finding ways to infuse joy into workplace practices. What’s most important, she says, is to pull away from practices that promote fear.

Creating Change

Wickman says that love in action isn’t a soft, gushy concept, but a real and difficult challenge that leaders need to meet head-on with real effort and policies. “It’s about freedom and autonomy,” she says. “It’s about human connection. It’s about growth.”

She says there are plenty of steps the average manager or the average employee can do, but first they must be willing to experiment together, test new ideas and iterate as needed.

The first step she suggests managers take is to find small ways to give power and control back to team members. “If you’re the average manager and you have five team members, is there a decision you run into this week that someone else can take on … and maybe learn something from the process?” she says.

She says another simple but powerful step is to block out time to actually connect with your team on a human level. “We get so bogged down with emails and just constantly in our office with the door closed, so put your computer away and go out and talk to your team members without any expectation of asking them to do something,” she says. “Just get to know them. What are their passions, desires and dreams? It’s truly amazing how a team can come together when they feel really valued and cared for by their manager.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

career change

#WorkTrends: Taking a Scary Career Leap … Into Cannabis

This week on #WorkTrends, to celebrate Halloween, we’re exploring one of the scariest things you can undertake: Making a career move or exploring a brand-new industry.

We talk to Stormy Simon, former president of online shopping site Overstock.com, about her nerve-wracking career leaps and her new passion: the increasingly mainstream cannabis industry. We also hear from Keegan Peterson, whose platform Wurk is adding function to the cannabis industry.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Making the Leap

Simon took an unconventional path to the upper levels of the technology industry, rising from a 2001 temp position at then-startup Overstock to become vice president of branding three years later, and president in 2014. Overstock expanded dramatically during her time at the company, growing from $18 million in revenue the year she started to $1.9 billion by the time she left.

“The best part about arriving at Overstock in the beginning of an emerging industry was the ability to take a chance,” she says. “There we were, sitting in offices, creating a new way to shop, changing the habits of consumers. In 2001 … I had never placed an online order. People in the office hadn’t really ever done it. We were creating habits that no one had done. That gave us the ability to take a chance because you were first, which also turned out to be a lot of fun.”

Two years into her tenure as company president, Simon decided to leave Overstock to advocate for the legalization of marijuana, with a heavy emphasis on the medical and scientific benefits of the plant. “That was a big deal and it took a long time,” she says of her decision to leave Overstock. “It was one of those multi-year struggling-back-and-forth decisions. It wasn’t something I took lightly.”

Today she serves on the Advisory Board for CannaKids, a California-based brand with a focus on supplying high-quality medical cannabis products to patients of all ages, and she consults for other companies in the industry.

Evolving Industry

Simon says one of the biggest challenges in her transition has been the rapid change within the cannabis industry, particularly when it comes to regulation and taxation.

These types of companies “aren’t treated within their state as an equal business to any other business,” she says. “If you have a grocer that only sells lettuce, they are going to pay less taxes than someone that only sells cannabis. Where do you put your money? There are no banking options or you’re paying outrageously for banking options. Now banks are starting to come up with solutions, but two years ago, it was archaic.

She says that in California, where she resides, the legalization of cannabis that began Jan. 1 has led to more stringent regulation of the industry, which had previously been concentrated in medical marijuana dispensaries. “They were supposed to be medical,” she says. “The lines got pretty blurred and no one was really in control of what was happening here. Well, legalization changes all of that.”

Simon says she expects the rest of the country, and eventually the federal government, to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and California and ease regulations surrounding cannabis. “I think ultimately the federal government is going to approve this plant as a medicine,” she says. “And this is a tricky, controversial thing to say, but I hope that states are brave enough to go recreational before that happens. The reason I say that is there are all sorts of benefits happening in states that are legal, both medicinally and recreationally.”

Learning More

Simon says she loves being an advocate for legalization and that she has her hand in “about five different cookie jars,” including educating people on the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

“I have really enjoyed going around the country, meeting people and starting the conversations that can potentially change their mind or spark their interest enough to get their self-directed education,” she says.

She encourages people who want to learn more about the industry, as well as the ongoing debate over legalization and medicinal benefits, to start with the Marijuana Policy Project, which maintains a library of what states are doing on cannabis policy.

“I encourage the listeners to just start reading,” she says. “This is a big deal in our lifetime. History books will be written and, whether we simply read about it or we jump in, we’re all a part of it. It’s part of our future.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

employee engagement

#WorkTrends: Is Your Team Really Motivated?

Gregg LedermanWhen it comes to employee management and engagement, a large body of research indicates that respect, purpose and relationships are more effective than money. So why are so many organizations still struggling to move the needle on worker engagement?

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, we discuss these issues —and a few creative answers — with author and employee engagement expert Gregg Lederman, who shares valuable lessons from his new book, “Crave.”

Lederman is a sought-after speaker, best-selling author and president of employee engagement at Reward Gateway, an employee engagement company. He is also the founder of Brand Integrity, a leadership development and employee engagement company. For the past 16 years he has worked with leading organizations to implement sustainable engagement solutions.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode. This episode is brought to you by our friends Reward Gateway.

A Management Problem

Lederman says he was moved to write his book after diving into the huge body of social science research on employee engagement going back to the 1930s. He started to realize that organizations were either not understanding the research or not deploying it in ways that optimized the engagement in the customer experience.

“It is not the employees’ fault,” he says. “This is a management issue. We have a management engagement crisis.”

Lederman argues that the engagement issue has more of an “energy crisis.” “Companies are buying the energy of their people, and they’re not getting it all because [the employees] are not as motivated and committed to doing what’s best for the company as they could be,” he says.

What People Crave

Lederman says that if you look at the engagement numbers from 2000, when Gallup started first polling on the issue, and compare them with 2018, they have changed by only about 4 percentage points. Meanwhile, he says, the amount of money companies are spending to try to fix the engagement issue is up 115 percent in the past five years.

“That is almost $8 billion spent last year to try to fix the engagement issues that we have,” he says. “Yet engagement is barely budging. The answer is in the book. It’s in the title, frankly — the reason people are not engaged at work is they’re not getting enough of what they crave.”

He says research is clear that motivation is intrinsic, rather than something we do to people, and that you can’t “beg for more or bribe people for it. People are going to decide each day whether or not they are going to tap into that intrinsic motivation and be more committed to the organization.”

Lederman has summarized the research into three concepts. The first thing that humans crave is to be respected for who they are and what they do. The second concept is purpose. “Help me see the purpose, the meaning, the impact of my work,” he says. And the third is relationships, particularly a worker’s relationship with his or her boss.

“You have to learn how to genuinely and very strategically capture and share successes and help people to see that what they do is important and that they matter,” he says. “When you do that, you’re not just showing them respect and helping them see the purpose, you are strengthening a relationship with them.”

10 Minutes by Friday

The subtitle of Lederman’s book is “You Can Enhance Motivation in 10 Minutes by Friday,” which hints at the simple ways he suggests for leaders to implement some of his ideas to boost engagement.

“At least once a month, take 10 minutes to stop, witness and share a success inside your organization of someone living your values, delivering your hospitality experience, doing something to drive your strategy forward — and connect that to a business result,” he says.

“There is a three-step process for how you do the actual recognition to make it strategic, but that’s it: 10 minutes a month if you want to be good. If you want to be amazing, and literally almost instantly become a better leader, challenge yourself to do it 10 minutes a week. It’s not easy, but that’s the 10 minutes by Friday challenge that our organization Reward Gateway is putting out there in front of folks.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

workplace connections

#WorkTrends: Bring Your Human to Work with Erica Keswin

Erica Keswin #WorkTrendsErica Keswin, a workplace strategist who recently published a fascinating new book, “Bring Your Human to Work,” recalls a chat with a CEO who shared how nine people in his company had a seemingly normal conference call.

“After the call they realized that all nine people had called in to the conference call from the same building,” Keswin says on the latest episode of the #WorkTrends podcast. “In other words, they were a couple of steps, an elevator bank, a cubicle, away from each other. It was so foreign from my own work experience, but I began to wonder what would make someone forgo the opportunity to connect with their colleagues face-to-face.”

The anecdote helped move her to explore more deeply why people aren’t connecting in the workplace, eventually leading her to collect her findings in the book, which offers offers 10 ways to transform your workplace by honoring human relationships. It’s an important discussion that encourages us to look beyond the HR technology we so often focus on and give the human aspect of HR its due.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Find the Technology Sweet Spot

Keswin says that while she’s far from anti-technology, she believes it’s important for organizations to find the “sweet spot” between leveraging everything that’s amazing about tech and knowing when to put technology in its place and connect in a more human way. She’s also adamant that technology, when used, should align with our culture and values.

“Unless we are very disciplined and intentional about how we connect with our clients, with our colleagues and even with ourselves, it often doesn’t happen,” she says. “It does impact us as people and the bottom line of our businesses. This is not a touchy-feely, feel-good thing. This has true bottom-line implications.”

Mind Your Meetings

Keswin notes that a chapter in her book called “Mind Your Meetings” details how many workers sit in meetings for hours upon hours, often multitasking. “People don’t even start to do their real work until everybody goes home,” she says. “For me, these meetings are an opportunity to go into a much deeper form of connection with the people in the meeting. However, it’s often the opposite that’s happening — that people come in, they sit around the table and everybody’s multitasking, texting, under the table.

She suggests organizations consider limiting technology in some meetings, a shift she says will have three positive effects. First, meetings are shorter because people are less distracted. People are also generally less likely to be offended because they get sufficient attention from their less-distracted colleagues, which can help improve relationships within the office. And the third benefit to low-tech meetings, she says, is that they generally increase the substance of the conversation.

Be Intentional About Being Real

Keswin says the key to making sure we’re showing up to work and being real-life people every day comes down to being intentional. “We’re not bad people, but many of us really want to get to inbox zero, and we’re prioritizing that over some of these human connections,” she says. “The technology is built to give us this hit of dopamine every time we send an email. I think about being intentional, and in the book I divide it up into these three P’s: prioritize, positioning and protocol.”

She says everyone, but particularly leaders, needs to prioritize relationships and create opportunities for real human connections — even if people think they’re too busy.

“I advise you to ask yourself this one very telling question: ‘Does your calendar reflect your values?’ ” she says. “That one question really pushes people to look at how busy they are, but also what they are doing under this umbrella of business. Is it aligned with their values, the values of their company, and pushing themselves to be more intentional, strategic and carve out time to connect with people in other ways?”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.