Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Inevitable Great Resignation

The LinkedIn network is run amuck with people posting new career adventures. I had questioned whether the Great Resignation was a theme more than a reality. I also questioned if mass professional exodus was a sign of disengagement or simply a trend to bolster individual empowerment. Make no mistake about it, the Great Resignation is here. 

There are a few distinct things that drive people from their job:

1. Bad Bosses

2. Lack of Upward Mobility

3.  No Alignment with Company Values

4. Ineffective Products/Solutions

What seems to have been over-looked in the malaise of the Great Resignation is that most of the above is avoidable through individuals taking ownership of their professional progression. Having a boss who seeks to limit your potential is of the worst part of professional existence. If you are passed over for multiple promotions your tenure is probably limited. To work for a company with a questionable commitment to elevated social worth can render your effort pointless. If you are bringing a product to market that doesn't work it is difficult not to feel like a fraud. These prompts to consider sharpening up the resume have always existed. The time tucked away in the COVID bunker has amplified the things that make work difficult, enter the Great Resignation.

As the COVID19 pandemic spotlighted the long ignored need for work/life balance, so now the Great Resignation has turned all heads in HR to enhance workforce engagement. How? What can we do to bring the tools to our workforce that will keep them engaged and keep the resume in the draft folder?

Carrots Not Sticks

There is a historical narrative that states: that which you which you wish to see repeated should be recognized. Not only is the sentiment of being thankful ever-important but the strategy behind rewards systems has evolved into driving performance. Through the COVID19 pandemic, companies had a built-in excuse to discard rewards. Those who made the sacrifice to prioritize employee well-being during the down times have seen sustained retention and improved engagement. People will always remember how they were treated in times of downturn, those companies who put "thank you" on-hold during the forced work-from-home experiment have seen mass-exodus in the return to office rebound.  

To be recognized by one's peers drives intrinsic motivation and can amplify the profile of more-reserved superstars. Here, we see qualitative work emerging by recognition from those in the trenches where overly-consumed managers may have failed to see the potential in their direct reports. What's best is peer-to-peer recognition need not carry a fiscal value but can serve to bolster cultural engagement (especially in virtual work environments).

Where is manager spend allocated? Let's say each team lead is given $2,500 a quarter to serve their employees. They use a portion for team dinners, happy hours or pizza lunches. There might be contests that reward winners with a gift card for their effort. There are two issues that arise in this scenario: We are unsure of who is being recognized for what.... and budgets are disbursed to disparate programs. Employees have a slice of pizza over here, a gift card there and a bit of cash directly deposited to their bank account. 

With a comprehensive points-based system, employees can combine their earning in each of the above mentioned categories. Now, a person can set goals to purchase a trip to Las Vegas as opposed to having unrealized rewards in fragments.      

Intentional Career Development

There was a time when even HR Leaders were apprehensive about the amount of training they were bringing to their employees. The thought being that if they learned too much people would leave for other opportunities. Times have changed! These days rewards, incentives and upward mobility are tied to performance as well as behavioral dynamics. We all know that top performers don't necessarily make the best leaders so the question remains: how do we determine who our future leaders might be? The answer is fairly straight forward.

You can measure performance to objectives through quantitative initiatives (i.e. revenue improvement). If you develop modules for recognizing qualitative behaviors alongside quantitative measures you can corelate corporate citizenship scores next to revenue components to find the leaders of tomorrow. 

Ownership Sharing    

Some companies give out stock options, others participate in revenue sharing, certain places give a healthy 401k contribution and others simply have robust compensation packages. What one is paid is a baseline qualifier. There is always a company that will likely pay you more but a pay check is, now more than ever, only part of the deal. Culture, upward mobility, flexible work and corporate citizenship are equally important to pay equity among the current workforce.

To have your opinions heard and applied is a form of influence sharing. Knowing the work you do contributes to making the world a better place gives one the energy to jump into work each day. If your CEO proves to be a genuinely caring person it is unlikely you would leave her workforce to chase more money. These concepts may seem divinely simple, but in times of chaos, simplicity wins.

It feels like the world is in the midst of a restart. What an opportunity to recreate your organizational purpose and establish the Human Resource function as the driving force behind making the world a better place. 

So what are you waiting for?

Thank You for Reading!

- Dave

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Our Time Is Now!

Fatigue. That seems to be the word of the moment. Everywhere we are hearing stories of deteriorating mental health due to isolation and uncertainty. The COVID19 pandemic has prompted the practice of flexible leadership and workforce adjustment. Right when things seem to be returning to "normal", they revert to stagnation. All of this weighing on employees, managers, executives and (especially) Human Resource professionals. Per usual, HR is called upon to play middle (wo)man in connection with the news of the day and how it effects organizational strategy. Each day a new challenge. Each processes implemented half way and then adjusted.... rinse and repeat. 

As the sun peeks over the mountain and the bunker doors open are we actually going to get back to more predictable function? Time will tell but ever-evolving change seems now to be an expectation more than a forward-thinking strategy. Assuming we are bound for better consistency, what can be learned from our three years of adaptation? 

Humanity has been embraced in the workplace since the onset of the pandemic. Simply put, we all hit a point of fatigue at one point or another. Where once instruction would be to adapt, we've all thrown up our virtual hands without answers while working in silos. It turns out our forced acceptance of emotional intelligence may have taught us all to be a bit more logical in our expectations (and the asides that temper them). 

So here we are. New badges being printed, rotating desk schedules published and the security team back on site. It's time to get back to work! We know the new normal will not be business as usual and the great return to human interaction will pose a new set of challenges. 

All of us will need a bit of time to adapt. Mental health challenges will persist, management directives will have to be flexible and compassion from leadership is an expectation. So, what can HR do to position resources that may have been lost in the COVID shuffle? Instead of a return to the "same old, same old", I'd like to propose a few ideas that might help us learn from the past and endure for the long haul.

Offboarding

Ending an employment cycle comes with it's fair share of challenges. Companies are focused on growth so terminations and voluntary leave seldom garner a ton of attention. That said, knowing why employees leave or dismissing them with grace can mean a lot to a company's hiring and retention strategies. 

Here's the first of a few potential enlightened strategies: Offboarding

We put tremendous focus on hiring and onboarding but do little to nothing for our company Alumni. Many departing employees leave due to poor relationships with their manager. Said relationship is often an offset of a manager keeping direct reports in silos. During the exit interview process, HR plays a critical role in understanding where toxic leadership exists. With the collection of feedback comes the responsibility to action plan. The Human Resource function is key to turning voluntary leave into a data set for retention improvement.

Terminations are a more difficult process. Employees tend to leave companies after being terminated with an unkind feeling toward their employer. What if we could make that process a little more graceful? By simply giving departed employees a trusted referral to a hiring agency you can turn an unfortunate fit into a course correction. This is a win/win for individuals and companies. Would you rather your employees struggle to perform in silence or help them rediscover their professional purpose?    

Feedback Ecosystem

Employee surveys can be tricky. Acquiring candid feedback through surveys may fail to produce the desired result. Those taking the survey may be hesitant if the survey comes from HR (even if deemed confidential). Sharing feedback with managers can create a defensiveness that sends them back to their team to find out "who said boo" about them. Using surveys simply for the sake of company praise may miss an opportunity to find gaps in organizational performance. 

Too often we see disgruntled employees taking to social media or chat rooms to slander their employer. This action might be taken as a last resort when employees don't feel heard. Employees tend to feel ignored when they provide feedback that is held against them or goes without action.

Here is another opportunity for HR to create a real time feedback ecosystem in which employees can submit an idea (or complaint) confidentially and have it addressed without judgement. To collect information, acknowledge the input and take action would drastically effect employee morale and improve retention.  

Accountability Boosters

You may be familiar with The Office episode when Dwight deploys an accountability booster to help "fix mistakes" in the office. The premise absurd... or is it?

The past three years have been a time of employee empowerment across organizations. Individuals are celebrating their civil freedoms and their individuality across the collective. It is important, however, to differentiate empowerment from entitlement. 

Many people have left companies to participate in the gig economy or to start their own business. What happens if the sprint to greener pastures turns out to be a miscalculated stumble? 

In order for companies to re-establish a healthy market position, individuals may have to take on opportunities for which they are over-qualified. People may have to start at the bottom. Teamwork, collaboration and selflessness will be essential to helping the economy rebound. We are all going to have to roll up our sleeves and dive in together to support the company mission.

Your ideas will be respected, your performance will be aided and we will all win together.

Our lives have been obscured since early 2020. No one could have imagined the immense responsibility companies would have to shoulder. Every individual has experienced mental health challenges while sheltering in place. As usual, Human Resources took it all on with grace and professionalism. Let's use the forced change management of the past few years to strengthen our strategic relevance. Let's keep moving forward!

The Time Is Now!

- Dave       

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Bold Leadership Through Strategic Resources

The COVID19 pandemic has propelled many into involuntary leadership action over the last 2 years. Navigating daily regulation inconsistency while addressing changes in work-from-home policy along with tempering the hiring and retention challenges of the Great Resignation has made Human Resources the busiest department in every organization. SHRM's Cause The Effect campaign is bringing attention to these unforeseen adjustments in the profession. Barely having time to catch one's breath is enough to keep any HR professional on the defensive. Today, I'd like to offer a few thoughts that might strengthen our long game strategy to lead organizations through this tumultuous time.     

It seems every day is a moving target. Where can HR intervene to formalize a plan toward predictability? This means allocating the appropriate tools to drive strategy with data output to defend our strategic decisions. 

It comes down to three principles: Training, Recognition & Performance Development.

Knowledge is Priceless 

Most exceptional leaders have adopted a "never stop learning" ethos. This need to pull knowledge from the trenches is the lifeblood of any forward-thinking organization. The approach to employee training often side-steps voluntary knowledge attainment for the sake of mandatory information transfer. Much in the way certain college courses drive a "memorize and test out" format, training for the sake of training can fail to engage employees. We need to rethink the learning process.

Certain groups will need to develop product knowledge to bring to market, there are times when we'll need to demo/test drive technology and there are always the HR Policy videos that fall in the mandatory risk mediation category. These are the nuts and bolts of professional comprehension. But, after they are aware of how to plug in the toaster in the breakroom, many employees are seeking personal development that will lead to leadership ascension. It's pretty simple: what can we provide in order for our employees to become their greatest professional self?

There are a ton of TED Talks that can be added to your Learning Management System, how about giving your employees the opportunity to view these theories and to report on them in short form essay? One of the most impactful events I've heard of was an intern shark tank competition used to bolster product development. How about a company book club? Any and all of these voluntary exercises can serve to engage your employee's personal passion to further expose their hidden leadership potential. 

The more we make training a stale requirement, the less employees will feel empowered to participate.

People Still Like Being Complimented

The world of Total Rewards has been second guessed over the last two decades. Large Global organizations may have a much more systematic employee rewards deployment than a company with ten employees. But, one constant remains: People like to have their achievements recognized! 

In a time when economic consistency is ever-under scrutiny, qualitative behavior change initiatives are of paramount importance. Rewards for incremental development can no longer be ignored. Here, we have the ability to develop behaviors that will aid in long-term organizational development. As opposed to micro-managing short term results, the time to build employee behavior based in cultural development is nigh. 

Recognition can encapsulate your organizational mission, vision and values or organically promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Recognition can incorporate Well Being (mental, physical and spiritual) or similar comprehensive behavior change initiatives at each step in development. 

Be mindful: people will always perform better when they know a Thank You will dovetail their effort!

Calling Out Failure Does Not Drive Performance 

HR professionals are called upon to walk the tightrope between policy and engagement practice. As such, performance management has always been a messy part of the Total Rewards model. Employees enter into a contract that may be performance based, contradicting legality with motivational initiatives can land your company in a lawsuit. This is why the call to terminate performance reviews that erupted within the last decade largely failed. Simply put, contracts need to remain in place. 

Our greatest opportunity exists in the ability to put management aids in place that guide excellence as opposed to being a fall back to approve terminations when merited. 

Being a middle manager is a difficult job. Individuals are called upon to set team goals while side-barring performance metrics for individuals. The often over-worked manager may default to micro-management guided by negative review of performance as opposed to frequent course adjustments. At best, manager-to-employee meetings can be driven by the intrinsic path of completing goals as opposed to looking for (and addressing) shortcomings. 

Managers can use the SCRAF methodology to understand individuals preferred path or simply start and end each one to one meeting with a compliment. We don't need a 78 category job function assessment to steer employees to promotion. What we do need is recognition of effort and guidance toward strength. Too often the simplicity of focusing on the good takes a back seat to cautionary discipline so as to provide employees warnings of potential pitfalls.

There has never been a more important time for leadership in the Human Resources profession!

Cause the Effect!

- Dave  

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Top 5 2021

Another year in isolation is good for only one thing: creative output. Indeed, any artist with access to a four track has amplified musical production over the past 21 months. Fewer shows, cancellations, the loss of elder songwriters, more zoom interviews and videos made at home. Grab a cup of coffee and your acoustic guitar.... it's time to channel your inner Bon Iver.

2021 brought us the return of Bleachers, an homage to 80's pop and Bruce Springsteen. Little Jackie also produced every upstart pop star's record in 2021. Perhaps no one made a more apt quarantine record than Bo Burnham, full of mockery but astutely precise in reflection of this bitter sweet shitty time. Damien Jurado remained prolific (and sad). Dinosaur Jr returned to form never lost. Drake sucks, Ye rules! Nada Surf snuck in some nice little songs for the lovers. RADIOHEAD Tay Tay Tyler War on Drugs & Weezer.

Maybe you saw a show or two and maybe some shows got rescheduled for 2025 or maybe your favorite artist died or maybe someone you loved became a COVID denier and sued a lady for $11. Strange days are these. 

May the new year find you under a tree covered by headphones, poolside with the radio on high or rocking out in your car. 

Here are the top 5 albums of 2021:


5. History of a Feeling by Madi Diaz  

"I don't hate you, it's worse than that"     

Break ups bring us some wonderfully insightful music. Our narrator's heart hurts which reveals itself through sorrow and more than a few FU's. The crescendo on "Man in Me" is an emotional rollercoaster that will evoke tears and heart palpitations all at once. These reflections are drenched in remorse with an undertow of hope. They leave us with a feeling that having gone through hell might get us a step closer to heaven (unsure if any of it exists at all). Isn't this a perfect sign of our times?

4. Long Lost by Lord Huron 

"There's a reason why I'm still living here though I can't think of it right now"       

Lord Huron has consistently delivered quality song writing layered in acoustic strums and slide guitar shimmer. This record fades in on a scene of a ghost town littered with broken dreams and time gone too quickly. Each song invoking the years past with a nod more than a shake of the head. A long winding adventure through a myriad of emotions sonically present and distant in thought.

3. How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last? by Big Red Machine

"Is it insensitive for me to say 'get your shit together', so I can love you"

Few have been as prolific as Aaron Dessner & Justin Vernon in recent time. From their recreation of Tay Tay's catalogue with a more sparse indie flare, to the extensive side projects, the production support and their primary projects; these humble kings just keep their head down and let the music speak for them. If only that was a sign of our times. Invite Anais Mitchell, Sharon Van Etten, Fleet Foxes, Tay Tay herself and slew of others to the party and you have a collection of songs that occupy an individual space. All songs underpinned by Aaron's piano and Justin's ability to compliment others with his vocal accompaniment.  

2. Pressure Machine by The Killers  

"Parents wept through daddy's girl eulogies and merit badge milestones"  

You won't see this one on many year end lists. People expect The Killers to blast them with 80's vibe bangers not a forlorn concept album about an opioid ravaged small town. Brandon Flowers narrates a place stuck in time; parents seeking solace in bars absent of factory work while their children over-dose on a daily basis. High School heroes living in tents off the lone highway, the way out visible but too far to fathom. Another day, another fix in a barbwire town with barbwire dreams. Lights won't illuminate the dance floor, more so, a fading hue with little light at the end of the tunnel.


1. Home Video by Lucy Dacus 

"He hadn't seen you since the fifth grade now you're 19 and you're 5'8"  

If 2020 was the year of Phoebe Bridgers, 2021 is the year of Lucy Dacus. The Boy Genius collective dominating the pandemic with home recordings that offer life shattering lyrics delivered in perfect pitch (the dichotomy alerting of present day confusion). "Hot & Heavy" brings our narrator back to the discomfort of lost love. "Brando" is a triumphant kiss off to someone seeking to mold a friend into someone they wish not to be (a misconception of cool, waived). "Thumbs" may be the most brutally revealing song ever written. Every track on this record is perfect in it's vulnerability while remaining self-aware. A triumph of the human spirit carrying us where ever we might be headed.

Until next year.... Thank You for Listening!

Dave      

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

An Approach to Tomorrow


It's the time of year to plan for next year unless you've lived through the last 2 years. Indeed the New Year's Resolutions going into 2020 were hit with freight train of "oh no you don't", while most people probably didn't bother setting goals for 2021. Things learned from a few years of isolation might help build a better tomorrow: people are sick of arguing with avatars and the great resignation has been hit with the great reality of a less than perfect job market. With a few years of futility behind us and a variant for every Greek letter ahead, how is it possible to catapult into a new year with any hope? 

We're alive and things, while complicated, show signs of normalizing. We might never go to an office again. We may have to adjust to technology irrupting human interaction. There may come difficult decisions with an uncertain end in mind. 

... and at some point, we'll get back to living. Why not make that time now. 

Can we allow humility to replace frustration?

Can we innovate against immobility?

Can we find a way to be grateful with so many simple pleasures being lost? 

Yes, we can!

The Story Of The Man Who Survived Poor Timing

Every road to success has a long runway covered with failure, regret and doubt. We tend to only get the tail end of the story. Michael Jordan did not make his JV Basketball team, Tom Brady was selected #199 in the NFL draft, most every tech billionaire fell on their face 100 times before finding their Big Idea. In all cases preparation and perseverance prevailed in the long run. But, what about these strange acts of god (or satan) that are unforeseeable if unavoidable?

There are certain things that are out of our control. In times of uncertainty we are some times forced to wait.... with only hope and luck in our back pocket.

Did you launch a business the 1st of 2020? Did a spell of bad luck cost you fortune or love or both? 

Your professional consequence will often be the result of motivation and drive. However, the most overlooked characteristic of success is patience. Many find their opportunity and run it over with well-intended repetition. What we fail to understand is that our effort is some times best directed through letting go. When we lack control we find that tedium can drive evaluation of time spent wisely. 

The Choice to Perform

The concept of the Great Resignation has empowered many to believe they have aces in their hand. Unfortunately, some have forgotten how to play cards. The last two years have certainly brought individual empowerment to many (through elevated professional and/or social consciousness). Some have found their moment of empowerment has been met with confusion and ill-conceived opportunity.

In the midst of success the greatest attribute one can embrace is humility. To understand fortune despite earned distinction leads to humility. To be under-stated in one's labor-driven pride leads to grace. Grace is important. 

Without chest-pounding or negotiation, to be grounded in one's current form is the definition of success. Simple success is often lost on those who amplify promotion of effort as the ultimate reward. 

Forgetting Everything That Sucks    

If you wake up with the first thought in your mind being that your day is going to suck.... it likely will! Finding resources to validate your discontent is the easiest thing in the world. To be positive in the midst of the current state of misery is a truly unique capability.

Misery is a choice. If you surround yourself with negative thinkers and/or spend your time consuming media that provokes defensiveness, you are making unfortunate choices. There are some who consider optimism to be a form of naiveite, these are people who are too weak to accept the responsibility of trying to make the world a better place. Anyone can embrace negativity and never attempt to make up for life's shortcomings. 

One day you may wake up feeling tired of always hating the dawn of another miserable day. Then it's time to do something about it. It starts with ending friendships with those who validate your excuses. From there, you'll need to develop distinct goals and a plan to achieve them. Finally there is the ever-difficult task of forgiving yourself for your failures.

And the sun shines brightly again (finally)! So, what are you waiting for? 

Don't Forget to Remember, 

Dave  

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Maybe We Won't Return To Work

For nearly 20 months, we've been pondering what the great "return to work" will look like. The COVID19 pandemic has caused the greatest disruption to the working world in recent memory. Fortunately, advances in technology, production work-a-rounds and nimble leadership have helped certain organizations maintain (if not thrive) amid chaos and uncertainty. With each working day in 2020 came another adaptation. In 2021, we've prepared ourselves for a return to normal. As a future without a perfect forecast lies ahead, we are all doing our best to keep our heads above water (intent on swimming again).

There assumed to be path where at some point, with the proper protocols in place, we would return to work as it was. That has yet to happen and we may have to consider that it won't.

Many workforces have maintained productivity. Commutes have gone away for some. Technical adaptations have been embraced. Some companies have found a way to strengthen revenue again. Many employees report being more engaged than they have ever been. 

Employees will return to offices, but in what form? Will remote work be a long-term solution (if even on certain assigned days)?

Will flexibility in where we work strengthen leadership trust or is line of sight still a requirement for certain positions?

If companies were able to close physical locations what would the cost analysis look like?

If employees were able to cut down on business travel what would the financial impact be?

So many questions evolving and still so few iron-clad answers. 

If we can learn from what worked during the great work-from-home experiment and pair those learnings with what worked best pre-COVID, we might evolve a greater workforce.

The Ever-Evolving Importance of Technology

When the work-from-home interruption arrived, companies who had a well-formatted tech stack were able to pivot with greater efficiency. As the pandemic moved to a longer-term disruption, the process of inventorying the tech stack became a priority. Companies made efforts to consolidate technical tools while simplifying protected access points. This forced efficiency made for a virtual employee experience that amplified production: more tools that are easier to find under an inter-related business strategy. Some companies were ready from the get-go, others have caught up. 

The question circles around which applications are business-critical vs the sunk cost of under-utilized installations. 

Here's where we are seeing necessary impact:

Collaboration

Where are employees interacting intent toward project completion? How are we measuring contribution and how does that relate to goal setting?

Training

Delivery of developmental content is increasingly important. Employees are looking for daily learning opportunities that won't take them through hours of "read and test out" repetition. 

Recognition

The world has been turned upside down while the workload remains. In order to stay productive and engaged, employees need carrots not sticks!  

The Now Unavoidable Mental Health Imperative

Isolation causes a number of different mental hurdles. Sure, people may not miss 3 hour commutes but they would likely revert for a little human interaction. We're all tired of zoom screens and cell phone conversations from the porch. Simple fact: people need people to thrive!

The opportunity exists in companies benefitting from the trust built during the work-from-home experiment. In many cases, employee productivity was amplified without being under the watchful eye of their managers. Whereas managers who have led through control were rendered obsolete. The world now has a comprehensive case study that people can get things done on their own schedule as long as trust drives manger/employee relationships. 

Employees are happier and more productive. How can we sustain engagement without breaking the trust agreement as in-person work resurfaces?  

Discovering Greater Meaning in Work        

The Behavioral Economics concept of Dopamine Effect shows us that when employees are recognized for meaningful work their brain releases dopamine. This effect causes individuals to find inspiration to try harder and extend beyond their perceived limitations. If you are sitting at a lap top in your living room interacting with people who are driving meaningful concepts into the marketplace, your motivation and engagement will sky rocket. To the contrary, If you schlep around an office from meeting to meeting without an ounce of purpose, you'll likely be looking for another opportunity.

WHERE you work matters far-less than WHAT work means to you. The answer to getting the world back to work is not contingent upon returning to an office or staying at home forever. People need to know that they are doing work that matters and to be rewarded when they prove what matters. 

Let's stop wasting time saving our motivation for the great return to normal. Keep what we need and discard what we don't.

Don't Forget to Remember,

Dave    

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Navigating the Great Resignation

We've all been bombarded by the forthcoming Great Resignation since the COVID19 shut down. The sentiment being that companies need to adapt to the requirements of the evolving workforce to keep the lights on (in the office to which no one is going). A recent Harris Poll determined that 66% of Americans are interested in switching jobs. Along with this rhetoric comes the call for organizations to allow flexible work, adapt a new tech stack and to change management styles. There's only one problem..... no one is quitting their corporate job. 

It could be that the uncertainty of times is forcing people to keep jobs they dislike (hasn't that always been the case)? Maybe go getters who thought the job market would be vibrant with opportunity have discovered otherwise? Is it that those who had gotten comfortable in their profession didn't realize 100 other qualified professionals would be interviewing for their "dream job"? We may also have to entertain the concept that companies have actually done a decent job engaging their employees? 

After the great recession of 2008 corporations were forced to eliminate jobs, cut wages and decline bonuses. Things are different this time around. We've seen our fair share of hiring freezes and furloughs but empowerment of employees has proven resilient. What we have witnessed is an evolution of what is important to the working public: 

Financial expectations have taken a back seat to meaningful work, company missions are driving motivation beyond the almighty dollar and advancement through quality work is debunking workplace politics. 

Now That The Watercooler is Empty

I recently read a post advising that one cannot advance in an organization without networking internally. The premise based in having lunch and participating in post-work activities to enhance one's personal "brand". With the "watercooler" now shut down and people working in silos, networking has been abandoned to focus on the work being performed. Imagine that, people being promoted based only in the merit of their performance?

The flip side reveals an unfortunate truth. As the workforce gets back to the office the option to work from home may remain supported. While one can continue to exercise this option, their ability to ascend the organization will become less likely. This is an excellent option for those who prefer Autonomy over Status but in order to have influence, you'll need to be present. Sad but true!  

Where Is Everybody?

As we talk about the great resignation, one consistency has never changed: people don't leave companies, they leave bosses. All the perks, wonderful culture and leadership vision are irrelevant if one's boss seeks control as a form of management. Workforce research can depict what needs to be done to retain and attract all star talent but if you allow managers to continue to bully employees, exodus is certain. 

With all the misfortunate of the last 18 months, if the downside presents an opportunity to dispel micromanagement, our time in exile may have been worth it. If we are to admit opportunity to job hop will be greater than in the past, focus on responsible management is a must. With the continual emphasis on employee mental health, organizations cannot be true to policy without holding managers responsible to treat their employees with mutual respect. 

More carrots, less sticks!  

Maybe My Job Doesn't Suck... ?

Hindsight is an interesting thing. I've experienced so many people who were actively engaged in a job with a great company that left to look for a "new challenge". Careful what you wish for! Sometimes we take for granted a great job under the illusion that something perfect is out there. No job is perfect. If you have 10 objectives for work and 7 of those are firmly met, you may just be living your best work life.

If your job is intolerable, no amount of money is worth the detriment to your mental health. If you are able to work with a certain degree of trust for a company whose mission pulls at your heart strings, this might be as good as it gets? 

Every job has its pros and cons. No boss is perfect. Products will fail. People will let you down. There will be unfair promotions. Some days will be tough and others will prove rewarding. We spend the majority of our waking lives at work, it's probably a good idea to find a place where you can challenge yourself with a certain degree of harmony. 

The pandemic has weighted us down with a thousand opinions of where the workforce is heading. The most trusted source in determining the future is no one other than yourself.

Don't Forget to Remember, 

Dave        

Monday, August 16, 2021

Workforce Engagement 200.0



We've all been sitting in our home offices for a year and a half pondering the return to our corporate enclaves. For some, the office has opened back up, this means commutes are back and formality might over-ride flexibility. Others may have embraced the work-from-home ideology as permanent, this means longer working hours as lack of commute and in-office distractions free up more time for extra project work. Then there are those who tried to go back and were thwarted by the delta variant. Another group has reconsidered long-term work-from-home structure and have re-opened the office to those "willing to volunteer". 

Uncertainty makes it hard to put mandates in place. Leaders have been forced to make organizational decisions without conclusive data; harming their popularity. Employees have a wide variety of opinions about the future of work and sitting at the lap top for 12 hours daily gives them time to interlude to 10,000 articles on the subject

I talked to a Human Resources Executive at a major Life Sciences organization the other day, her insight was astounding. "At some point we have to trust that our employees are adults and that they are going to make adult decisions for the betterment of the cause". She continued, "all the policy in the world is not going to build trust across our employee base. We have to believe that individuals understand the importance of their role and honor their team members to fulfill the expectations of their job". Seems simple enough. Could it be that if we allowed our business units to "police" themselves there may be a revelry of self-empowerment?    

WFH v In-Office

I've seen some stunning opinions around work-from-home versus in-office efficiency models. It's obvious that there are certain roles that absolutely require in-person interaction. Other roles may serve the organization from afar with greater productivity. There is the argument that saving 3 hours a day from commute time can be dedicated to extra work. Some believe time in the office with thousands of others only distracts the individual from core job focus. 

The primary debate comes down to financial well-being. We see organizations offering complete work-from-home (and often relocation) opportunities with the caveat of reduced salaries. This begs the question.....

Does it cost (or save) the organization money when one chooses to work from home?

Here's a potential breakdown:

1. Cost of Office Space: Let's say an organization owns 25 buildings that are 35,000 sq feet at $5 per square foot per month. If you closed half of these buildings the savings annually would be over $1,000,000.

2. What about the cost of office supplies, in-office dining, system security and facility utilities?

3. Commuting Costs?

.... without having to eliminate offices altogether, reductions could save the organization money while improving employee engagement.

With the above parameters in-mind, why would employees have their salaries decreased for working from home?

What Do Employees Really Want?

I don't believe any employee wants to work in complete solitude. You'll note the flocking to restaurants as COVID restrictions were initially lifted. People, for the most part, are tired of sitting around at home. However, this doesn't mean that a total return to workforce as it was is necessary. 

Without physical work spaces, the frills of ping pong and yoga rooms lost luster, was it ever there?

Cash bonuses for hopping companies seem to have a limited shelf life. 

To mirror the aforementioned HR Executive's insight, what people want to is be trusted to do great work!

Train, Trust and Thank!     

I've spoken to several HR Professionals who admitted that their organization offered just enough training to keep employees progressing but not enough inspire them to leave. That concept always seemed bonkers. In this day-and-age people are thirsty for knowledge (not only that which improves their core performance but anything that will inspire new thinking). TED Talks and Master Classes are being offered up to inspire individuals to think different. We've seen e-learning offered up in "learning snacks" as daily quick hits 5 minutes at a time. There has also been an evolution of "soft skill" development to inspire the leaders of tomorrow to create a fully stocked toolbox.

Transparency took an involuntary front seat during the COVID19 pandemic. Leaders had to step out in front of their employee base and address questions that ranged from Human Rights to Science to Politics (not to mention the core elements of what helps the company thrive). The Manager/Employee relationship has evolved beyond work as mental health has been destigmatized. Our time working from home has taken the veil off workforce formality and it won't likely be replaced.

There is one thing every person wants to hear: I'm Proud of You! It's a terminology that has to be earned to be genuine. 10 years of work and a thousand achievements culminate with a simple conversation with one's boss that reveals those 4 words. It's also a two way street... Managers need engage their employee's trust to earn the right to use those words.

Maybe it's time to stop over-thinking workforce engagement and simply trust our employees to be responsible adults.

Here's to moving forward safely!

~ Dave 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Employee Desire


For 15 months I've been documenting the ever-evolving workforce experience via this blog (and others). We've been through a hundred different layers contrasting hope and uncertainty. There are those who have found positivity in solitude while others have been chomping at the bit to get back to seeing other humans IRL. The time of emergence (at least for now) is upon us. 

The pandemic has raised an interesting cross section of organizations embracing social issues while individuals overlapped the personal with the professional. Has the work-from-home conundrum taught us to synchronize individuality with collectivism or will we revert to cubicle farm cheese chasing? 

We've toyed with a million turns of phrase to address employee engagement. Call it what you will, put technology in place, gather people in celebration (virtually or in-person), survey employees, action plan for success, focus group, mentor, train, innovate, succession plan, design path to promotion, hire more, fire less and the world will be a better place.... for you.... and me!

Employees are individuals and as an individual you are called to action by one emotion:

DESIRE

The aforementioned constructs are necessary, but if you can inspire desire, then we're heading somewhere refreshingly unique.

Tapping Into Individuality

We live in a time when individuals have social brands that are more prominent than those of the organizations for whom they work. CEO's are marching in the streets with their employees. Individuals are literally wearing their cause-driven ideologies into the office. There was a time when work was a place for organizational objectives and one's thoughts on social issues were foe paw in the conference room. Times have changed. 

During the pandemic we've met our co-workers (and customers) kids, pets and partners. Social feeds have been up all day between zoom calls. The formality that deemed people unprofessional if their dog barked on a conference call has been replaced with a hat tip to one's mental health.

What if we embraced people for who they are? If we allowed individuals to like what they like or don't like and left judgement aside. Maybe if we started the team meeting with some personal interaction we'd realize that the key to collective success is having a team of varied disciplines. If we stopped judging one another for who we are and concentrated on our contributions to the professional cause we might realize that everyone has value.

Recreating The Workplace

There is no certainty about the future of work. The learnings in the work-from-home experience have shown that people can be trusted and can actually get a lot done when working in their pajamas. Many of us are sick of sitting around nonetheless. We may have to shave, pick up our button up gear from the dry cleaner and get back in the automobile. It's been nice to commute 15 steps to the lap top but I'd like to think everyone misses seeing their co-workers in the break room. Isn't it about time to get back to complaining about work at the local pub after 5pm aside co-workers?

We can take the best of both worlds and recreate our Employee Value Proposition.

The Harm of Negativity 

In this time of uncertainty we have to acknowledge a truth that has always been there:

Complaints Fill The Megaphone of the Unsuccessful

The last year has been brutal.... for businesses, for families, for individual mental health. We do, however, need to put our big girl pants on and get back to work. Quotas will go up, workplace safety will provoke uncertainty, managers will need to retrain their leadership tactics and employees will have to find courage. The challenge of getting back to work will be nothing compared to what we've been through over the last 15 months. 

We've installed technology to replace physical space, commuted less and given more love to the diverse employee population across the world. Now is the time to give back to the companies who helped us through the pandemic. 

The Future is Here!

- Dave

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Great Engagement Tug of War


It's been a while since there has been a topic that has lacked decision in a way the post-pandemic workplace continues to. Will we return to the office? How often? Will there be parameters for hybrid models? Each region, industry and individual organization seems to have their caveats that are ping-ponging policy.

As we discussed last month, the interpretation between policy and organizational strategy creates a huge opportunity for partnership between HR and Business Unit Leaders. Additionally, we'll see a continual reliance on technology as the backbone to guide culture and engagement. We all want to see our co-workers again. The once taboo cooler talk now seems like a welcome opportunity for those of us who have grown accustom to talking to our dog between zoom calls. We cannot wait to get back to company events and incentive trips to warmer cultures. 

With all of the uncertainty in the air, an informal poll of social sites seem to reveal two opinions: 

- Employees would like to continue to work from home (in some form)

- Managers cannot wait to get back into the office

Indeed, Human Resources will be tasked with making sure return-to-work polices are understandable, that awareness of well being is at the forefront of the transition and that a technical roadmap is maintained. There is also an extraordinary void coming that will be beyond the control of policy or training.

FOMO is about to make a massive comeback.

Even with the most flexible strategies for hybrid work, here's the reality of the situation:

People who aren't in the room will miss out!  

Get ready for a whole lot of touchy subject conversations. There will be those who do not feel comfortable sitting indoors with others near by. Some will choose not to get vaccinated. Managers may seek to side step organizational policy. Lack of performance may be blamed on inability to interact in person (or the inverse). 

Invite Yourself to the Party

We all know people don't leave companies, they leave managers. Most bad managers ignore Human Resources and silo their employees under their thumb. So much in the management profession is driven by the ethos that a leader cannot be vulnerable. Here lies an extraordinary opportunity to bridge the gap. 

The Post-COVID workplace will call attention to Mental Health support. Some employees will feel uncomfortable returning to condensed spaces, others will miss the communal experience of the home office. Managers who think they can ignore partnership with Human Resources will find themselves stuck in the silo alone while their employees seek help directly from HR. 

Your Technical Roadmap

The work-from-home experience has created hyper-focus on technology: conferencing tools, collaboration spaces, social feeds, learning paths, goal setting portals and ways to appreciate employees are now standardized. 

Are you going to turn it all off when people return to the office?

I hope not! There seems to be a misconception that technology replaces human interaction, this is a false premise. In fact, the backbone of all business interaction has existed in technology for 30 years. We will get back to in-person meetings, trainings and company events. The roadmap for it all is based in technology. 

Utilizing the technology created in the COVID fire alarm is absolutely critical to maintaining a roadmap to success!   

Get a Couch in Your Office

I'm not suggesting inappropriate executive privilege but you may need to play Psychiatrist for a day. Employees are going to need a safe space and HR is the first line of inquiry. Be prepared for employees to cross the HR line as never before. If you are available to meet employees in their time of vulnerability, trust will build a bridge to new partnerships.

Even Managers who may have been reluctant to engage HR mediation in business affairs will be looking for counseling. 

As the office doors swing open for the first time, Human Resources open door policy will be the center point of organizational culture.

Don't Forget to Remember,

Dave