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Posts tagged ‘Communication’

Maybe something called Slack could revolutionize the workplace

So many people you meet will spend time pursuing/chasing “Inbox Zero,” denoting it as a badge of accomplishment. But then, er, IBM has done studies indicating that a clean, organized inbox holds no essential benefit. Maybe it’s better to not organize at all, and that’s where this new app called Slack might come in:

Slack is often touted as an email killer, promising to provide a more efficient way for teams to communicate internally. And there’s no doubt that email can be a plague upon our workplaces, eating up hours with unnecessary messages and turning simple questions into endless threads full of clarifications. Slack cuts through that partly by initiating any messages as chats before converting them into emails when someone isn’t available.

But the truly interesting thing about Slack is that it puts the whole fragmented list of ways we communicate beyond email, chats, messages, documents, and reports into one stream and makes it searchable. It promises to end the need to constantly categorize and sort everything we do. When everything’s already in one place, you don’t need to spend time creating folders to sort things into and trying to keep track of where the information you need is. You just search for it as needed.

This could be cool. One thing I’ve always disliked is when there’s a central e-mail system — be it Outlook or GMail — and then there’s still 90 attachments and 54 Google Docs flying around everywhere that you need to locate and categorize and organize on top of your e-mail. This is a little bit like how Box was going to change the way we work, but the basic idea is: have the stuff you need in one central place, and searchable. Forbes is saying Slack might be a next WhatsApp, and that company just got bought by Facebook for a ridiculous amount of money. Slack’s own motto is “be less busy” (a-men, yo) and their focus is on “improving team communications” (a-men, yo), so it could be something that becomes adopted pretty wide and changes the way some companies essentially communicate. There’s a good point in that Forbes article, too: it’s one thing when everyone needed on a project/discussion is in an office, be that the same office or different offices. In that context, they’re out there checking e-mail constantly. But what if you have people in the field (sales) or people doing basic job functions without e-mail (baristas)? Having an app that’s essentially text messaging first is helpful in that situation, right?

Bottom line is: no one’s really figured out how to make business communications wholly effective. As mentioned in the Quartz article, there are hundreds of new product categories related to the cloud and effective work that spring up every week. People are always looking for that competitive advantage in terms of easily organizing files/needs and quickly communicating messages back and forth; it’s going to be different for everyone based on the context of what they do and how they’re organized, but there are a multitude of tools out there for people to consider.

Here’s a simplistic idea: could we save the planet by reducing our focus on how business must occur face-to-face?

By now you’ve probably heard about or seen or have some context around this new climate change report, which was fairly dire. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who care about the issue is essentially the same as it was in 1989, despite documentation of rising temperatures, rising sea levels, etc. Watch this to freak yourself out a bit:

The media doesn’t generally cover it — some believe it should be contextualized more as a food supply issue — and there are still pockets of people denying it happens at all. Let’s be honest for a second here: the reason this is a non-issue for most people is because if you look at sea level rise documents, all of those are dated to 2100 as “possible bad situation.” Very few people on the Earth right now will be alive in 2100, and thus they don’t care. There’s idealism about future generations and then there’s “Shit, I have a meeting and my car needs gas.” They don’t always overlap perfectly.

Now here’s a simplistic thing we could possibly do, though. I’ll try to frame this in the context of something I’ve been working on recently, but first let’s commence with a few basics. Business travel surpassed $1 trillion – with a ‘t’ — in 2013, and that number is expected to rise. Obviously, from about 2008 to 2011 the number was down — companies had to tighten belts — but now it’s skyrocketing again. You can make a really basic economic argument that global business travel is a great thing, and in many ways I’m right there with you: it stimulates new partnerships, it stimulates spending in local areas, etc, etc. Also, if you’re going to work for 40-50 years, you might as well get to take a few trips on someone else’s dime, right? It’s better than all cubicle, all-the-time.

But the thing is, all those trillion dollars worth of business trips result in planes taking off, which results in fuel usage, and the whole thing probably contributes more to climate change than car usage. So if we want to save the planet, even a little bit (seriously, just a little bit), maybe we should re-contextualize the idea of business travel. As in, there are often times it doesn’t need to happen.

When people talk about “business,” they’re really discussing the art and science of human relationships. You’re not going to sell something to a person you think is a jackass, nor are you going to work with them extensively on anything. The relationship does need to be there, and that often does require travel if two interested parties are not face-to-face or in the same office. And I don’t believe managers always need to be in the same office as their direct reports; giving people life flexibility is a good thing.

Problem is this: just like people call a meeting for something that could easily be done in 2-3 e-mails, so too do people book business travel for something that could be done on Skype or Google Hangouts or hell, even via e-mail. Let me give you a couple of examples. Last summer, some people I knew at my graduate school flew from Minneapolis to the Dallas area to try and meet up with potential companies that might eventually want to come back to my school and recruit candidates. OK. Seems like a good wine-and-dine-and-let’s-see-where-it-goes type deal. Problem is, all they did was go to the corporate offices and have introductory meetings. Important, sure, but … couldn’t that have been an e-mail thread? Ditto this part-time gig I’m doing now: I just had a conversation with a girl who flew from Austin to San Francisco to Phoenix to Memphis to Atlanta back to Austin just to “build relationships and develop culture” with others. Again, important … but also exhausting and probably could be done via a phone call or Skype or whatever else. I’ve been at countless jobs where people tell me something like “flying to San Diego to work with that team for a day or two” (from the east coast) and I wonder, “Couldn’t we all just get on a phone call or a shared doc or something?”

So basically, this is the simplistic take-away: people will frequently choose the wrong medium for a relationship-building situation, whether that’s “2-hour-long meeting” as opposed to “basic bullet point e-mail” or “back-to-back conference calls” as opposed to “Friday recaps in Google Drive.” That also extends to “flying all over hell and gone” as opposed to “maybe we can foster these connections in a different way.” Think about it: companies, even consultants (who famously fly everywhere and logically need to do so), were doing OK from 2008 to 2011 when they couldn’t green light every flight everyone wanted — hell, that period helped create the current travel boom we’re seeing. So growth can happen without flying to London to meet a person. It can. And for the sake of our planet in 150 years, maybe it should. (Again, simplistic and not the whole picture. But in a sea of neglect on this issue, I figured it was one idea.)

You spend probably 1/3 of your day at work, if not more. But there’s no science around how to make work great. Can Google change that?

The Framingham Heart Study, detailed a bit in the video above and also here, began monitoring 5,000 people in the late 1940s and continues to this day; the super-longitudinal nature of the study allows for broader observations about health, heart disease, and honestly, even happiness. Google is trying a similar thing with another basic notion of your life (you know, aside from your heart) — work. Here’s their SVP of People (i.e. Human Resources) on the challenge at hand:

“We all have our opinions and case studies, but there is precious little scientific certainty around how to build great work environments, cultivate high performing teams, maximize productivity, or enhance happiness,” Bock writes.

Indeed. There really isn’t, and that’s a problem — too many people do things off gut, and gut for one person might not work for another person, including a person they’re now managing. Similarly, despite decades of social science research, basically no one knows how to accurately set goals for employees.

So what’s Google’s plan here? It’s a bit of a long play, to be sure (buzzword alert), but essentially, they’re going to run a 100-year survey on work:

This isn’t your typical employee survey. Since we know that the way each employee experiences work is determined by innate characteristics (nature) and his or her surroundings (nurture), the gDNA survey collects information about both. Here’s how it works: a randomly selected and representative group of over 4,000 Googlers completes two in-depth surveys each year. The survey itself is built on scientifically validated questions and measurement scales. We ask about traits that are static, like personality; characteristics that change, like attitudes about culture, work projects, and co-workers; and how Googlers fit into the web of relationships around all of us. We then consider how all these factors interact, as well as with biographical characteristics like tenure, role and performance. Critically, participation is optional and confidential.

Here’s what they started to learn: a percentage (31) of Google employees are “segmentors.” That means that when they leave for the day, they’re done. No off-hour e-mails or anything. It’s family time, or happy hour, or the gym, or whatever. The 0ther 69 percent, though, are “integrators.” That means you’re never really off the clock (which is what most people would probably call their “norm” anyway). That was troubling to Google — because if you’re always on the clock, there’s no way you’re really deeply focused on anything, because you lack time to recharge — so they did something in Dublin called “Dublin Goes Dark.” When you left for the night, you surrendered any work-related devices. The results were blissful. It actually helped work. Over 100 years, a lot of observations could be culled that could possibly be applied to places with less resources than Google. Now, it depends on training being done right — so that generations hence can understand what the point was, and how to extend the work — and it also depends on downward extrapolation. Google has billions of dollars. The auto body shop on the corner does not. How can they apply the same cultural principles and trends that this study discovers?

Here’s a couple of small things from Bock at Google:

1. Ask yourself what your most pressing people issues are.  Retention?  Innovation? Efficiency?  Or better yet, ask your people what those issues are.

2. Survey your people about how they think they are doing on those most pressing issues, and what they would do to improve.

3. Tell your people what you learned. If it’s about the company, they’ll have ideas to improve it. If it’s about themselves – like our gDNA work – they’ll be grateful.

4. Run experiments based on what your people tell you. Take two groups with the same problem, and try to fix it for just one. Most companies roll out change after change, and never really know why something worked, or if it did at all. By comparing between the groups, you’ll be able to learn what works and what doesn’t.

I agree with pretty much all of this. Companies are huge fans of rolling out change without any context associated with it, to the point that people essentially just say, “Well, it is what it is.” Also, for all the fear of “silos” in companies across departments, one of the more drastic silos is actually between middle leadership, upper leadership and on-the-ground executors of plans. That communication channel needs to flow naturally, and people need to care about the issues being experienced up and down the chain. Work is 1/3 of your life (possibly more); it should be at least somewhat tolerable, no? If you were going to sleep for 8 hours every day and all you did was toss and turn and get incomplete information, you’d want to fix that, no? So why shouldn’t we fix work? Hopefully this Google thing does yield some answers and broader context.



Brief thought exercise: is your job what you think you do, tell people you do, or actually do?

A couple of weeks ago, I was on this “business trip” (quotes indicate that it was for work, but admittedly a part-time job) and struck up a conversation with a couple of seemingly like-minded individuals at a hotel bar on Saturday evening (the bar didn’t have any tap beer, which was rough). Here was the jumping off point: a girl in the discussion had recently taken a job with an idealistic-sounding, education-focused non-profit. Their goal was to fix education, or solve education, or whatever the tag line/mission statement read. She was a former ELA (English Language Arts) teacher and had grown a little tired of the classroom (happens to many), so was looking for a new opportunity and saw this as a chance to be “on the front lines.” (This is somewhat misguided, because “the front lines” of teaching is, in fact, the classroom.) Regardless, she started the job and it was good for a couple of weeks, but then it became (in her words) “a lot of stuff with PDFs and Google Documents and scanning and keeping track of stuff.” In other words, something she had hoped would be transformative became transactional. This happens in a ton of jobs, all over the world, literally every minute. Some studies believe nearly half the workforce is ultimately overqualified for their job. Brief personal interlude before I continue: I’m a grad student right now (but basically done with the degree), and I’m looking for work. I’ve been doing this for a while (seems like forever) and still have nothing; at some point, probably within the next 60-75 days, I’m just going to need a job. Am I going to end up taking a job that I’m over-qualified for? Probably. In fact, I’d say more than likely this might happen. Rubber eventually does meet road on these things, and you need a paycheck to live in a capitalist society. Them’s the breaks. I digress.

In this hotel bar conversation, another person — who was more inebriated than the girl telling the original story — chimed in and was rather loud. Almost violent-sounding. “This is bullshit,” he began, and I braced myself for a potential confrontation here. “Your job is what you (expletive) do. It’s not what you think you do or tell your friends you do. It’s actually what you do.” I thought about this for a while as the two started arguing. First off, it’s a depressing reality of social existence that when you meet new people, one of the first questions is often around their vocation. We do care “what people do,” and as a result, people need a narrative around that. You can’t say “I code PDFs for financial purposes” because that doesn’t sound right — just like you can’t say you’re not busy (double negative!) – so you create another narrative for these eventual conversations. “I manage finances for a global operations hub.” Got it. But then, over time, do you come to believe that’s what you actually do, even if what you really do is look for six-digit codes and enter them into a program created by SalesForce or AMEX or someone?

Basically, the question is: what’s your job? Is it the ideal someone pitched you and you believed/created for yourself? Is it what you fundamentally do day-to-day? Is it what your job could be? Or is it how you tell others about it?

If you believe that work — or your career, in other words — at least partially defines you as a person (which many people do believe), then this is basically a central question. Hell, there’s even a meme about it.

So what do you think: is your job best defined as what you actually sit down (or walk around/stand up) and do, or what it was sold to you as, or what you think it is in your head? And how much of that is based on previous contextual relationships and/or your own need to be defined by the work you do?




Being busy is a function of time management skills and your choices. So please stop talking about how busy you are.

I read this in Slate before I went to bed last night and it resonated with me. Essentially, if we view the idea of being busy as so awful, why do we constantly tell others about it in a way that’s akin to bragging? The real answer, of course, is that we don’t think of being busy as awful — we think of it as currency for the modern age. It’s almost like the whole “Get busy living … or get busy dying” idea, although simply remove the word “living” and you have the attitude of most Americans (I can’t speak for the rest of the world, as I have no real knowledge of that). As noted in the Slate article, being told you’re not busy is akin to being told you’re redundant or obsolete.

Here’s a quick example: this past summer, I worked for a Fortune 15 company for about 12 weeks (it was an assignment between my two years of graduate school, often called “an internship,” which always feels weird to say when you’re north of 30). Anyway, at this job I had a primary function, and I’d say said function took me about 22 hours a week, but I was supposed to be working about 40-55 (the north end being to impress people by burning the midnight oil). Seeing that it was fairly ludicrous to sit around 33 extra hours and not really do anything, I went around to different managers and essentially asked if there was anything on their plate that I could offload.

It should be noted that I wasn’t asking to do complex financial work or legal work — things where I wouldn’t have training. In some cases, I was literally asking to write memos or help with Excel documents just to feel like was doing more. The oddest thing would happen in these meetings; people would typically tell me that it was such a nice gesture, but they were so busy that they didn’t have the time to off-load anything. Hmmm. Doesn’t that seem paradoxical? I understand the lens they were probably viewing it through: I was just there for the summer, so they didn’t really know me. They probably assumed I wasn’t 100 percent bright and that off-loading work would require training me on something, and their calendar was already color-chocked with meetings galore anyway. But I always still found it interesting: someone was offering to help them be less busy, and the excuse was still around being busy.

I do think anyone reading this probably knows 10 or more people who say they’re always busy simply as a function of needing to fit in with how everyone else is. I get that. Life is essentially structured around “in-groups” and “out-groups,” regardless of where you live; there are too many people we come in contact with for our brains to process the context of all of them, so we need to organize them into workable wholes. If everyone around you is always busy and you say you’re not, to many you’re suddenly in an “out-group” (see above). The attitude could be, “She must not be working hard enough.” That’s bad, especially in a professional context.

Here’s the thing, though: the whole idea of “being busy” is based on two things — your time management skills, and your choices. Let’s say you are a person with a 75-hour/week job. There’s 168 total and you probably sleep for 7 x 7 = 49, so after we take away the sleeping and the working, we still have 44 hours. Now let’s say you have three kids and most of those 44 are spent with activities or preparing meals or trips to the zoo or what have you; let’s say that takes up 35. You still have nine hours, somewhere, that can go to yourself. How about three trips to the gym and a couple of Netflix movies with your significant other? That’s doable, no? The point is, the time is there; in a given week, there are 168 hours. It’s your choice how you manipulate those. If you choose to spend those 9-10 extra hours we just found answering your Blackberry, that’s your choice. So please, stop talking about it. (I understand why you need to, but at a certain point, it’s all just a cacophony of sounds.)

At a certain point, if you step back and observe most office cultures, work can easily be played for comedy from afar: it’s a bunch of people running around from meeting to meeting telling everyone how busy and over-extended they are. (Not every place is like that.) If a superior alien race looked down on that, they’d probably laugh for a little while (couple of seconds, maybe). It’s almost a race to see who can justify their presence the most, and the fastest, and the most dramatically. But seriously, stop talking about how busy you are. Those are your choices and your ability to manage time.

Good managers are super rare. 82 percent of manager hires end up being the wrong one. (Whoa.) Here’s why (kinda).

Straight up and honestly, the last five or six managers I’ve had have been somewhere from “horrific” to “OK periodically.” No one has been great. The reasons can vary — most of the time it involves simple communication, but sometimes it does involve the idea of micro-managing, or expecting things an exact specific way even if the outcome is the same if it’s done another way. This is all fairly common, and accounts for the insanely low engagement scores globally. (I wrote a post about an employee engagement survey at the University of Minnesota that goes into this too.)

Here’s a new(ish) article from Harvard Business Review, which delves a little deeper. Here’s a doozy of a statistic:

Gallup has found that one of the most important decisions companies make is simply whom they name manager. Yet our analysis suggests that they usually get it wrong. In fact, Gallup finds that companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time.

First reaction?

Companies fail – FAIL — to find the right manager more than 3/4 of the time? LOLz. This isn’t per se surprising, but goddamn, that’s a depressing stat.

The article goes on. A good manager needs to have these core traits: ability to motivate, assertiveness, ability to design a culture of accountability, relationship-building, and strong decision-making. That’s a lot. It’s not quite “a laundry list” but it’s a lot. So how does this all shake out?

Gallup’s research reveals that about one in ten people possess all these necessary traits. While many people are endowed with some of them, few have the unique combination of talent needed to help a team achieve excellence in a way that significantly improves a company’s performance. These 10%, when put in manager roles, naturally engage team members and customers, retain top performers, and sustain a culture of high productivity. Combined, they contribute about 48% higher profit to their companies than average managers.

So about 1 out of every 10 people should become a manager, but 82 percent of the time, a company is choosing one of those other nine people to actually become the manager. That also makes sense. The No. 1 fundamental reason I’d assume there is simply politics. Managers are often chosen based on (a) tenure or (b) ability to manage processes well, which is vastly different from managing people well (people have emotions; Excel files do not). I’d also reckon — this is observation, not science — that it’s possible people with all those traits above could (a) get bored in a hierarchal structure and just leave or (b) not be the best at the political bullshit that ultimately helps you get the managerial promotions. Sometimes smarter people don’t like the small talk, you know?

So what can be done?

The HBR article talks about using “predictive analytics” to find managers. I think that’s a good idea on face, but no one really understands how big data works (for realz), so I feel like that would ultimately get messed up. (“The data’s not right. Promote off gut!”) The first, and easiest (I think) thing to do would be to look for people to promote to managerial roles who are respected. You can generally tell — explicitly — within a company who is respected. Even if they lack some of the core skills, just having that respect will allow them the ability to develop them. When you promote the hard-charging Type-A people into management, that becomes a fucking train wreck. They’re literally starting from the back of the race at that point, and because they’re people who want to be in control, they’re gonna make the situation worse before they make it better.

“Training” is a big thing in companies, and it’s a double-edged sword. When companies go through bad periods, training is usually one of the first things they ax. But training is also one of the singular things that makes a good company great — i.e. access to it. Manager training should be commonplace and routine. Managers should be trained on communication (massively important), building relationships, working with others, rolling out new plans, etc. This should happen at least once a month, if not more. The goal should be to create “an organic” culture — not one that feels forced with a billion meetings and check-ins. Those ultimately create burnout; feeling like you’re part of a team, as opposed to part of a work team, should be the goal of the manager.

A lot of this comes back to the message from the top — is that message about people, or about products/revenue? If it’s about the former, you’re in a good spot to evolve as a manager. If it’s about the latter, you’re pushing a boulder uphill.

Here’s the final aspect of manager training (two-fold), and I’ve seen this in numerous examples (myself and my friends). First off, managers need to understand — when they become managers — that it’s quite possible those under them won’t work the exact same way they do, because, well, er, people are different. If the goal is “C,” and the manager would follow “Path A,” but the employee would follow “Path B,” and both get to “C” under-budget and ahead of time, it doesn’t fucking matter that the employee followed B. If your focus is on outcomes/deliverables (as most orgs’ focus are), then employees should have the ability to work in their own style so long as those are being met. Managers often get promoted and think “Well, I’ll impose Path A on this team.” That leads to dis-engagement.

Final thing: empathy. It’s nowhere in this process: hiring, recruiting, managing, etc. If you manage four employees and pass one in the break room, ask them about their life, their family, their day, etc. You don’t need to be their best friend — that’s a common trap point for managers, especially new ones — but you do need to show that you care. The manager I had this summer would frequently walk past my office and say nothing despite making eye contact. Isn’t that odd? She also wouldn’t tell me when she was gone for 3-4 days at a time (also kind of odd). Just try to make some kind of connection; you don’t need to invite them over for linguine, per se, but you need to show an interest, even if it’s feigned. Just like there’s been base psychological studies about smiling at people on the street, so too can a quick 30-second check-in with a manager make an employee feel better and work harder.

It’s always been kind of amazing to me that despite decades of research and studies on managing, hiring, recruiting, etc… no one really knows the best practices here. Of course it’s a moving target and an imperfect science, but you would think the percentage of bad manager hires wouldn’t start with an “8,” right?

Employee engagement and the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report: What can we learn?

I’m writing this at the intersection point of a couple of different aspects of my life:

1. A few years ago, I went to graduate school to focus on organizational development/behavior and employee engagement. I was interested in these topics because I’ve worked at a ton of different places, been on a ton of different teams, and had a ton of different managers — and yet seen the same things plague almost each situation, so I wanted to know a bit more about how it all worked.

2. Parts of the program have been interesting, but by and large it’s been just-out-of-college kids without much contextual work experience (I’m older than that), and, for various reasons I’ve detailed here and there, I don’t actually have a job out of the program yet (which is fairly stressful).

3. I’m working part-time right now for Teach for America doing summer institute logistics (I was a TFA corps member back when) and I just spent five days at a conference in Memphis. Teach for America is definitely a very vision-focused organization, and people at conferences spend a lot of time talking about engagement and the value of people, which is fairly rare in most work settings.

I’ve been Googling and otherwise researching around this for a few years now, and more in the past couple of weeks — is “culture” something tangible, or is it just a synonym for “We want to pay people less money and not have them bitch?” Is employee engagement truly possible, or will it die as the millennials take over the workforce? These things seem to be big-picture questions for work going forward — if you don’t have the best people, how can you make the best products/interact with your customers the best/etc? And if the big challenge of the next generation is going to be retaining the best people, how do you do that?

It turns out, creating “engaged” employees actually isn’t as hard as you think. Part of it just involves getting over the standard bitching that we all do to an extent in the workplace.

Here’s an article from Forbes summarizing the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, which ultimately looks at 2500 organizations in 90 countries. Here’s an example of something that jumps off the page, even if it’s really none too surprising:

  • 86% of business and HR leaders believe they do not have an adequate leadership pipeline (38% see it as an urgent problem)

OK. That’s probably not good. What if someone gets poached to another company, or wants a new responsibility? Is there anyone to replace him/her? It seems as if, er, the answer is no.

It does seem from the research that the idea of performance management is broken — which others have claimed as well — and it seems like this idea below is the ultimate disconnect between the “hiring manager generation” (40s) and the “new worker generation” (early 20s):

As one HR manager put it, “today employees don’t want a career, they want an experience.”

I semi-disagree with that and I think it’s too easy of a thing to say; at a certain point, “rubber” does meet up with “road” and people just want a job so they can have an apartment, pay their bills, etc. More millennials are living with their parents, yes — but that doesn’t necessarily mean they all want to be doing that. Eventually, in a capitalistic society, people will settle for jobs to have income. By saying the issue is that “people want experiences,” you’re essentially bitching about your “skills gap.” If people want experiences, cool. Give them experiences then. Don’t use it as a crutch.

Here’s an interesting book tied to the study. Basically, look at retail-type companies that over-staff vs. those that under-staff. The prevailing business model in most of the world is “go lean” (i.e. under-staff), because compensation accounts for so much of your money going out. But when you compare those types of organizations, the over-staffed ones are more profitable. Why? The employees have more time to focus on bigger picture items, re-stock shelves, come up with ideas related to layout, work with individual consumers, etc. That all pays dividends on the back-end.

If you look at that small example, maybe the issue of “employee engagement” — which Gallup is putting at about 13 percent world-wide — is really very simple. People want support, training, context and empathy around the work they do. (Training and development opportunities are one of the major things that distinguish top companies from mid-level companies.) I’ve seen studies that say an average middle manager in America is in meetings six hours a day and receives 137 e-mails during the work hours. That’s asinine, especially when you consider how long a human being can actually focus at work. So what we need to do is talk less about “OMG, young people want these experiences! It’s not like our generation was!” and talk more about “how can we support these people and make them feel like part of something bigger when they come here.”

Cue the violins, because someone will always say, “Well, this is all well and good, but there’s actual work to be done, and we’re here to do that.” Got it, chief. Here’s the thing: work gets done at companies all the time and the companies can still have “a culture” that rewards individual thinking and down-time away from projects. What if companies came together every month, at the beginning (on the 1st or 2nd) and set their agenda for that month? “These are the big things we want to focus on, these are the main revenue streams, here’s the upper limit on meetings you can call, and here’s how we’re going to reward people.” Something like that. Utopia? Sure. Could it all blow up 2 days later? Of course. But providing some base-level context about the work and the ideas and the objectives regularly would seem to be good.

I don’t know what the exact answer is — and I don’t think anyone does, and it’s probably very different by organization and the people composition — but it does feel that in the past 7-10 years, there’s been too many excuses made about how “younger workers expect too much” or “the skills gap is too big.” Those are ludicrous complaints, because organizations can fix those things in terms of how they treat and evaluate workers, or train and develop workers. Find good people and make them great people. Isn’t that how all industrialized nations ultimately were built up?

Simon Sinek has this idea about “starting with why.” That seems fairly logical, no? Start with why — provide a context – and build training and development up from there. It’s not about getting the person who hits all 12 checkmarks on the job description. It’s about getting the person who hits six and is willing to get those other six and stay loyal to the company. And it’s about the company not whining about “OMG, this person is going to leave” — yes, they may well leave — and instead providing them with tangible reasons to stay.


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