Stop and think about what makes you human

Think About Being Human For A Second

I don’t mean to get super deep here or anything. You’re theoretically alive and reading this and human and you have day-to-day responsibilities and people you interact with and friends and family. Most people don’t think about it much deeper than that, right? Do your thing, chase your dream, build your company, raise your family, etc. People come in and out of your life, and some losses are harder; some are barely felt. This is, broadly speaking, the way of humanity.

But sometimes it’s interesting to stop and reflect on what exactly makes us human, and why humanity became the dominant frontier of the last few thousand years … as opposed to, say, a colony of lions running the world, or even a colony of arts.

To wit:

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The lack of feedback at most offices is stunning

Lack of Feedback at Work

I got this from here, which is in turn from here. (HubSpot is the first one; OfficeVibe is the second one.) The whole infographic is featured below, but take a look at the one above. Basically all your employees (98 percent, rounded up, is 100 percent) will fail to be engaged when managers give little or no feedback. Failure to engage = half-assed work projects. Yes, you’ll probably still make money because someone out there will buy your products (er, or something else), but you’ll be flipping people a lot and you’ll be leaving money on the table. It’s not an ideal situation.

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If someone wants to work remotely, let them

Let people work remotely

There’s been a ton of misconceptions about millennials in the past 2-3 years, spurned on by the ol’ “Let’s generalize about generations” concept that we’ve been doing for years. (I think I’m Gen-X, and my parents are “Silents/Matures,” and I guarantee you at some point they turned to each other and said I was lazy and entitled, which you know … probably isn’t that far off. Upper East Side upbringing, baby!) I wrote about this whole generational misconception once. IBM, who is a lot smarter than me and has access to much better research, also wrote a paper about this recently.

Basic idea behind all this: we assume millennials will be so different and want all these different things, and in the process … they’ll change everything about how we think about and conceptualize work. Right, but … it’s not right.

You know the core of what millennials want? The same things that Boomers want and only realized later in their careers they could have.

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On business innovation vs. tenure

Innovation and How Long Your Team Has Been Together

Here’s a concept I don’t think a lot of people think about: we all know it can be bad to work at a place where there’s consistent turnover (people always leaving), because then priorities get skewed and it’s hard to have a “point person” on anything. The people who stick around can constantly feel like they’re playing catch-up or covering for the work of people that just left. It’s a challenge — and that’s supposed to be the doomsday scenario for bad employee engagement, so there’s been more talk of this “OMG SO MUCH TURNOVER” scenario in recent years.

Here’s the flip side: have you ever worked on a team where everyone has been together 10-12 years? That can work well in sports (think the Spurs, for example), but it’s much harder in business. In business, people get used to each other — the good and the bad parts — and they get used to their core ways of doing things (so you hear “… but we’ve always done it that way…” a lot, which is terrible). Cycles get slower, and processes are more ingrained. When a process becomes ingrained, it’s about 100x harder to break or circumvent. That creates a lot of issues too.

So there’s this kind of happy medium needed: you want a team with some new blood and some established blood, with leadership ideally being a mix of those two (if all your leaders are old-school, been-with-the-place-forever, you’re going to be running in some hardcore circles). But … can you actually achieve innovation with a long-established team?

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The man is keeping you down

We know, via economic science, that Americans should probably be making about $30,000 more than they do. We also know that job growth has been nice — 223,000 jobs were added off the last report — but earnings have remained stagnant, and that’s bad. (In related news, no one really understands the unemployment rate anyway.)

Now there’s this, via here:

U.S. Wage Growth

Year-on-year wage growth is about 1.9 percent. For context, the last time the unemployment rate was this low was early 2008 (RUH ROH!) and year-on-year wage growth was about 3.8 percent, i.e. double what it is now.

Now look at this:

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Understanding social capital at work

Social Capital At Work

I’ve written a little about these types of ideas before, like the power of friends at work or how to use social capital for better networking or even how leadership can be drastically improved if people just walk around and talk to other people. Here’s something new, courtesy of Margaret Heffernan:

Social capital develops from people spending time together. I learned this when I was running my first software company. I hired lots of brilliant people, but felt that there was something wrong. I realized that everybody was so focused on their own work and tasks, that they didn’t know anything about the person sitting next to them. So I decided, “Okay — Friday afternoons at 4 o’clock everybody’s going to get together and three people are going to stand up and tell us who they are and what matters to them.” At the time I thought it was hokey. Even now, this doesn’t feel like elevated management thinking. But it completely changed the game. You need that level of trust to have the freedom to think and to have the really good kind of argument from which the best ideas emerge.”

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Treat your best-performing employees like your best-performing customers

Incentivize Internal High Performers

The SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) conference is going on/potentially ending right now in Las Vegas, and I’m insanely bitter because I’ve been writing about human resources and organizational development topics for about 18 months now and I was hoping that someday, somebody would pick up my tab to go out there and chop it up with some “thought leaders,” but of course … ain’t nobody reading this blog and offering me airfare. So, I had to settle for a little Twitter and Google News search work to get some recaps of the action. I found one pretty interesting thing.

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The basic life path is changing, and we should address that

I got this idea from here. Let’s look at the “standard first-world life path:”

Standard First-World Life Path

Pretty simple, yes? You start in a “safety net” — meaning your parents are economically responsible for you, then you learn (K-12, college), and then you leave the “learn” stage and can contribute. This leads you to a job/career. You do that for decades, and then you eventually fall back to “safety net,” which is your retirement savings. This has been the conventional model for about 100 years, but definitely since WW2. However, it’s changed quite a bit in the last 10-20 years. Now it probably looks a bit more like this:

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