This blog is about the relationship between organizations and the people who work for them. And, it’s dedicated to the millions of people around the world who go to work every day wanting to do a great job.
Archive for July, 2011
“Orienting employees has more to do with introducing employees to your culture – ‚ÄúThe way we do things around here‚ÄĚ and the brand experience – than it does all the rules and regs that are the usual focus of employee orientations.” Yes, I said that in a post last November.
And, I still believe it. ¬†But part of the way we do things around here has to do with rules and regs so employees need to know that too.
My nephew, let’s call him John to protect the innocent, got a job at Subway earlier this summer. ¬†He’s 16 and this was his first experience working outside the family business. ¬†He lasted less than two weeks. ¬†No one told him that on breaks there’d be no place to take the break. You see at this Subway outlet you can eat all the food you want, but there’s no where you’re allowed to eat it. Unknowingly, poor John found a corner in the empty restaurant to take his break and have his snack. ¬†The next day he was told off [I guess the manager watches the video] and his hours were cut. The day after that he quit.
You can’t know what you don’t know.
This came to mind today when I was out chiwalking up Mont Royal and heard someone coming down the hill complaining about being told off at work for something they’d never been told and couldn’t be expected to ‘just get’.
So, ask yourself: ¬†What do new employees need to know about the way we do things around here? ¬†Are we giving them an adequate orientation or are we just waiting until they break a rule or cross an invisible line to let them know?
Good for John for quitting. ¬†And too bad for Subway ’cause they lost a great employee.
The other day, over breakfast with a good friend and senior HR professional, I learned something that surprised me. ¬†He works for a fortune 500 pharmaceutical company that is well-known and highly respected. Since he’s been there – well over 10 years – they’ve reorganized every year or two. ¬†I don’t mean minor reorganizational changes. ¬†I mean major tectonic plate shifting changes.¬†And over that time, like many other companies, they’ve centralized the global HR function into their head office and shifted the commoditized work of the function to outsource partners.
But today, he told me that, they are also transferring technical HR work to managers.
Now, as those of you who follow this blog know, I think management should take more responsibility for their employees – knowing who they are, listening to them, helping them align priorities, getting them what they need to do their jobs better and more easily, building capacity of teams and individuals. But what my friend was talking about takes management in the opposite direction.
His company has decided that managers should take on what is fundamentally a very technical data input role.¬†Thanks to new user friendly People Soft interface they will be able to promote, demote, transfer, reassign, document vacation, parental leave and remove their employees from the corporate database all on their own. ¬†Just add water and stir.
In a world that is already over-charged and over-loaded there are now new responsibilities that take management further from leadership and deeper into the semi-automated technical world that once belonged to HR specialists.
So while, managers are entering data, employees are calling an outsourced support function in Manila and figuring stuff out on their own rather than speaking with their boss or their local HR business partner. ¬†As one of my friend’s colleagues said it’s a world turning into “Do it yourself” management!
You do have to wonder what’s this transfer of work really about? ¬†And is it really for the better?
“Organizations are¬†amoral in and of themselves.
It’s human beings in organizations that have values. ¬†
It’s leaders that must impose values.”
So, when I read the most recent Maritz poll¬†results (2010, USA), I had to conclude that leaders may be imposing values, but they aren’t the ones that are being communicated by Corporate communications and HR professionals.
The survey found that “despite a slight improvement in business conditions, the American workforce remains less engaged with their employers than they did one year ago. Poor communications, lack of perceived caring, inconsistent behavior, and perceptions of favoritism were cited by respondents as the largest contributors to their lack of trust in senior leaders.” Specifically:
- Only 7% believe senior management‚Äôs actions are completely consistent with their words.
- 14 % of employees believe their company‚Äôs leaders are ethical and honest.
- Only 12 % believe their employer genuinely listens to and cares about employees.
- Only 10 % of employees trust management to make the right decision in times of uncertainty.
- About 25 % of employees distrust management more than they did the year before.
What is especially disheartening is that these same leaders are reading this report and year over year seeing the same results disappointing results. What are they making of it? Do they see employee involvement in their businesses as a must have or as a nice to have? What’s keeping them up at night if it’s not this?
Sucky values suck!
We’re busy. ¬†We’re very, very busy. ¬†We’re announcing new strategies. ¬†We’re launching refreshed brands and new identities. We’re introducing new values. ¬†We’re introducing new products and services. We’re up-sizing and downsizing and reorganizing. We’re changing processes and systems. We’re reducing costs and increasing investment. ¬†We’re changing our culture to be more innovative, collaborative, flexible, [insert other]. ¬†We want our employees to be engaged, loyal, and proud of the organization they work for so we’re “communicating” and “communicating” and “communicating”.
Changing your point of view is an important source of insight and understanding. ¬†Today, I’m wondering if this isn’t what it all looks like from an employees point of view.
As I wrote yesterday’s post, I remembered a conversation I’d had with a client of mine a few years ago. ¬†I’d commented that the people in his organization were acting as if they were running a sprint when they were really in a marathon. ¬†In their case, it was more like a very, very long, cross-country ultra marathon every day for over 5 years and¬†a stream of¬†change programs and reorganizations. ¬†My client laughed. He’d been a sprinter in a past life and reminded me that a 100 meter sprint lasts under 11 seconds! [Since this post was first published the world record is even faster now 9.6 seconds!]
Not anything like a marathon.
No wonder people were exhausted. ¬†They all believed that if they just pushed harder then they’d catch up and things would get back to normal. And the CEO, the execs, the professional communicators and human resources professionals all believed it too. ¬†Well of course this wasn’t true then and it isn’t true today, 4 years later. ¬†I hear that the organization is still working people at a sprint pace. ¬†Busy “sweating the small stuff” as the current CEO said in a recent interview.
Doesn’t sound like a¬†prescription¬†for being the best we can be – institutionally or professionally – to me. ¬†And, it made me think. ¬†What, if anything, can we do to help institutions that are behaving as if they are in a sprint when they are in a marathon?
Over the weekend we attended our first¬†triathlon. Before you get too excited, Michael and I were just there to cheer Michael’s brother Stephen on. The top ranked competitors [including I'm proud to say - my brother-in-law] take it very seriously and are very good. They swam 1.5¬†km, rode 40¬†km and ran 10¬†km on a still, hot day [30C+ without humidex] when Michael and I could barely stand the heat as we stood in the full sun [no where to go] and rang cow bells to encourage Stephen as he flew by.
There was a moment when two competitors were running within inches [maybe millimeters] of each other, when the lead just lost “it”. It was obvious. His face changed, his stride changed, everything changed. Less than a second later he’d fallen lengths behind with only a few meters to go to the finish line. And it was at that moment that I started to think about what it really takes to bring home the gold. And to think about what we can learn from top ranked athletes and how they train.
The difference between being a good athlete and being a great one can be pretty small as anyone who’s watched the Olympics knows. These athletes don’t just know how to do their sport. They bring their body, mind and spirit to what they do in a very focused and intentional way.
Last week I asked what our organizations are doing to support employees doing their best. Today, I’m asking what we as employees and professionals are doing to be our best.
Are we clearly articulating what success looks like for ourselves in our work life? When do we want to realize that vision? Does that vision inspire us? If not we need to start over.
Are we clear about where we are in relationship to our inspirational end state? Do we know what key actions we need to take, and what skills and capacity we need to build to get there? Are we taking action every day to get there? Are we eating properly, exercising and getting enough rest to do what we want to do over time? Are we developing the mental skills to handle our current situation and get us to the next level? Are we mentally prepared? Have we made time to meditate and develop our focusing and visualization skills? Are we consolidating what we’re learning and adjusting our plans?
If we’re not as present in our work life as top performing athletes our chances of achieving the highest levels we aspire to are significantly less likely to happen. We can rely on chance, or go for the gold!
The nature of work for “white collar” workers in the Western world has changed radically in the past generation. ¬†Gone are the visors and adding machines. It’s hard to believe, but when I first started my consulting career in the 80s my client Canada Post had a finance department that was spread over at least a few full floors. And 100s of people were seriously working like this.
Linear, predictable and boring work has mostly been commoditized. ¬†Today workers need to be able to think. ¬†They need to be able to respond quickly changes in customer demand, ¬†the competition and other¬†market conditions.
But, are we still treating employees as if they are factors of production? ¬†Look around.
Gone. 9 to 5. Here. 24/7/52.
Gone. Just doing your job. ¬†Here. You better be fully engaged.
Gone. Untethered evenings, weekends, vacations. I even have one client that starts conference calls regularly at 7 any day of 7.
Gone. “Squeezing the lemon.” ¬†Here. “Sweating the assets.”
Gone. Breaks and lunches away from your work. Here. More work.
Heh, wait a minute! ¬†I don’t think we’d treat the other factors of production – land and capital – this badly. ¬†If labour was a machine I’m pretty sure we’d be treating it better. ¬†What’s going on?
“Much more important than working hard is knowing how to find the right thing to work on. Paying attention to what is going on in the world. Seeing patterns. Seeing things as they are rather than how you want them to be. Being able to read what people want. Putting yourself in the right place where information is flowing freely and interesting new juxtapositions can be seen. But you can save yourself a lot of time by working on the right thing.” [Caterina Fake at Happiness Hack]
There’s nothing fake about Caterina Fake’s take on the role of management. She’s co-founder of Hunch and Flickr. And thanks to Hackingwork you can¬†hear how she, as “a management 2.0 leader thinks about [her] role and best practices for being a disruptive hero”. [really gets going at 4 minutes]
Yep. “Sometimes you just have to go rogue.”