The future of our workforce should be very important to you. It is critical to your employer and should be considered very strategic to individual businesses and your industry. I want you to look at the incredible investment you can make for you, your staff, your business, your industry and especially the young people in your community. This is a call to action.
While attending the U.S. News STEM Solution conference, it was a constant theme that we need to encourage kids to explore their interest, even as early as elementary school to enable them to make the critical education decisions they need to make by high school and beyond. Many of the specifics were around the encouragement of STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) but by no means were the needs exclusive to those disciplines.
So I ask you to engage in your community’s youth beyond the resume reviews or mock-interviews. I have some ideas that could help:
Internships – Internships can be paid (I hope), or attached to the school where the student gets course credit, or both. The key is to make these real learning experiences, with hands-on practice applicable to the business. These are not very valuable if they are stuffing envelopes and making copies all day. That would be a clerk job, not an internship.
Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day – Officially these are April in the US, October in Canada – but they can be ANY day. Make these events meaningful exploration for the kids. They are not about the little ones having movie day in the conference room. These days should be real exploration for the kids. Create panels that explain your world of work, the jobs in your office, the skills your employees use and why do your customers care that you exist.
Scholarships – Can your business or your industry create scholarships to college or trade schools to help students in need, pursue the training and education they need to be part of your future workforce? Looking for a way to make a mark with your local industry association chapter – spearhead this committee! With student loan debt surpassing credit card debit in this nation, this is a service to EVERYONE.
Volunteer Opportunities – Many organizations targeting career and skill development in our youth need volunteers. Some opportunities need a steady commitment, such as an adult leader coaching a team for FIRST Robotics where kids compete in the development of robots that must achieve specific tasks. This isn’t only an engineering need, these kids create marketing plans and presentations to present their solution. Other groups like Boys and Girls Club need volunteers in the afternoon to help with homework. Several organizations need one-time judges at their competitions. These competition include a wide variety of trades. People are need to judge or assist with events ranging through culinary arts, to welding arts, to business plans. There literally is something for everyone.
Career Open House – Can you open your company for career tours for groups as small as a Boy Scout Troup or as large as a national gathering of Junior Achievement leaders? Create a tour that showcases your employees, your work environment, the skills used in your business, the impact your business has on the community or the world.
School Career Days – Volunteer at schools near your office or anywhere in the town, especially the underserved schools whose parents may find it more difficult to take time off work for career sharing. Help your employees create their age- appropriate presentations. Can they bring an exercise that showcases their job? Can they bring a poster board with the logos of your customers, if the kids will recognize the logos? Every age group has different needs, be mindful of these differences. If your employees come to you with a need for time to represent your business at career day – celebrate it. Don’t make them take PTO – incorporate it into your corporate outreach programs.
Sales Training – Can your sales team develop training for the high school students that need to sell advertising space for their newspaper, yearbook, theatre program? Can they take the student on a sales call with them – or help them do phone calls to their target? Why not provide sales training to the students? Remember that the teacher is often learning the most, while they teach.
What are you doing to develop your employer brand while you open the young minds of your community to the possibilities they can pursue as they plan their education? This critical, strategic, giving and can be joyful. Consider me a resource to discuss any of these options. I challenge you…
About the Author: Lois Melbourne, GPHR, is co-founder and former CEO of Aquire Solutions, mom to one terrific young son and wife of co-founder Ross Melbourne. After entering a bit of a sabbatical life phase, she is authoring a series of children’s books about career ambitions. She maintains a strong personal commitment to career education and small business development and is a speaker, author of industry articles, and an occasional blogger and networker. Connect with her on Twitter as @loismelbourne.
The act of reviewing an employee’s performance regularly and objectively has many benefits. The assessment can help the employee gauge their progress and make appropriate adjustments to the way they approach their work. Ultimately, this can lead to a motivated, skilled and active workforce.
With this in mind, it is clear that having objective and constructive performance discussions is something every organisation should work toward. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Managers carrying out the reviews are human beings, and as such are subject to both conscious and unconscious biases. Even those who believe themselves to be completely egalitarian can still be guilty of unwitting bias based on preconceived stereotypes, as was demonstrated in a series of Implicit Association Tests carried out by Mahzarin Banaji. Often, this prejudice is levelled at women.
The impact of gender discrimination on employees
Given that a favourable performance review can affect an employee’s chances of progressing within an organisation, the issue of gender bias needs to be addressed. An employee who feels unfairly treated will be demotivated, so it makes good business sense to try and remove unconscious biases wherever possible. Hidden biases such as gender discrimination, according to Caroline Simard, the director of research at the Clayman Institute, also create “cumulative disadvantage over a woman’s career over time, resulting in lower access to key leadership positions and stretch assignments, advancement and pay.”
Despite this, it has been found in a 2015 study that only one-third of employees feel that gender equality was a priority within their organisation.
Addressing stereotypical language
Recent research demonstrates that female employees are assessed differently to their male counterparts. This difference presents itself both in the language used to describe an employee and the quality of constructive feedback provided.
It was made clear in a 2014 Fortune article that women were much more likely to receive a critical performance review than men. The data collected for the study was analysed by a linguist, who examined both the type and frequency of the words used in a sample of performance reviews. It was found that female employees were much more likely to be negatively described as ‘abrasive’, ‘strident’ and ‘aggressive’ while demonstrating behaviour that, in men, was considered ‘confident’ and ‘assertive’. The linguist discusses how the word ‘abrasive’ was used seventeen times to describe thirteen different women. Only the word ‘aggressive’ was used in the men’s performance reviews, and this was used to praise and encourage. Interestingly, the gender of the manager was not an issue — both female and male managers were generally more negative toward female employees.
Addressing unhelpful, critical reviews
The study mentioned above also reflects the reality that when men are given negative reviews, there is generally a constructive element to be found. Should they be found lacking in certain areas, they are given clear instructions on how to develop their skills to perform better in the future. The feedback provided to women, conversely, was more negative and far less specific. They were notified of areas where they were not performing as desired, but they were not given the tools necessary to improve. Such behaviour not only does the employee a disservice, but it also guarantees that the organisation does not reach its full potential.
How HR can eliminate gender discrimination in performance reviews
In an ideal world, all biased behaviour, both conscious and unconscious, would be eliminated overnight. Unfortunately, this is impossible, but equality is certainly something we can work toward in order to ensure a fairer, better functioning organisation. It begins with addressing the issue head-on and promoting a conscious awareness regarding gender bias.
One method of tackling gender discrimination is to encourage managers to be mindful of their language. Words used in a performance review should be constructive and objective. Judgemental and emotive words should be avoided, and the review process should prioritise communication both ways. Open communication allows the employee to respond, while providing a balanced and accurate view of the situation.
In a similar vein, the HR department could benefit greatly by introducing a means of providing anonymous feedback to employees. This system enables staff the freedom to report behaviour that they are uncomfortable with, without the possibility of facing any personal repercussions. Such feedback may highlight important and concerning issues when it comes to the running of an organisation; for example, it may come to light that the staff believe that men are consulted far more regularly than women when it comes to important business decisions.
Managers should also ensure that their reviews are specific. The evaluation of the employee’s performance should be considered against agreed objectives, behaviours and values. In this way, performance reviews are less subjective and a far more fair way of evaluating performance.
About the Author: Stuart Hearn heads up a team who designs innovative performance management software. He has been working in the HR sector for over 20 years, previously working for Sony Music Publishing and co-founding PlusHR.
Whether you’re just starting out in your career or whether you’re well into it, it’s important to take on new opportunities. Joining a task force, working on a cross-departmental project, taking on a group presentation to a new client . . . things like that give you a chance to find out what you like and what you’re good at. Taking on such projects tests your will and your fortitude, especially those projects that are likely to stretch beyond the usual forty- or fifty-hour workweek.
The key is to take on projects that you know you can complete. You need to feel confident that you can deliver. You don’t want to be the one who volunteers and then doesn’t carry her own weight. Whatever you take on, you have to follow through. You have to push yourself to do it, even if it means you might have to sacrifice your personal time as your work week extends to seventy or eighty hours for a certain period of time. The last thing you want is to sign up for an extra project and then be the one who always leaves early or never shows up. You don’t want to be the one who makes a lot of promises but never delivers. You don’t want to be that person.
Opportunities and risk go hand in hand, and saying “yes” to opportunity means you’re taking on some risk. Saying “no” also can be risky, even when it’s the right thing to do.
Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of volunteering for extra work. Your boss volunteers you instead, saddling you with a project or a presentation that you have little time for. Some of these projects might not be to your liking, or they might not provide you with the kind of visibility that will put you in line for a promotion. Sometimes you just know that there’s no way you can take on another project and give it your all.
So what do you do when you know the right thing is to say “no”?
The key here is to decline politely without actually saying “no.” One way to do this is to say something like, “This sounds like a great project, and I’d be happy to help. I’m working on Project X, Y, and Z right now, and so I could take this on early next month. Would that work for you?” or something like, “I’d love to work on this. Do you see this as a priority over Project A, which is due at the end of the week?” Responses like this let your boss know that you’re both enthusiastic and willing while at the same time prompting him to consider your workload and how much time you could reasonably dedicate to the project and still get the job done.
Saying “no” can be uncomfortable, but it’s often necessary. Only you know how much you can really handle. While you don’t want to be afraid to push yourself, it’s important to know when to say enough is enough—just so long as you say it in a way that keeps your good reputation intact.
About the Author: Jena Abernathy is a nationally recognized leader in human capital management, performance excellence, and organizational development. A sought-after speaker, she is a passionate advocate for women in executive and governing board roles. She has written for and been featured in a wide variety of media, including CNN, the Financial Times, CBS Money Watch, FOX Business, and the Miami Herald. You can connect with Jena on Twitter or at www.jenaabernathy.com.
Culture is one of the easiest things to blow off when it comes to organizational investment. You build it, and you just sort of place policies and procedures to make sure it works, right? When HR managers shout from the rooftops that corporate culture can be the downfall of an organization (or at the very least a huge stumbling block) if not properly cultivated and managed, we’re quite often met with an exasperated response. Not THAT again. And yet, when the company stumbles and falls over said block to the tune of millions of dollars, it’s most irritatingly a malady that could have been avoided. There is nothing that guides a company to it goals and beyond quite like a dynamic, properly-cultivated corporate culture, and a perfect example of this has recently hit the news: Zenefits.
This darling of Silicon Valley shot through the uprights not unlike a good number of its start-up constituents: former CEO Parker Conrad Valley’s billion dollar startups, peaking last year when he was able to raise $500 million for a corporate valuation of $4.5 billion. Announcing itself as the fastest-growing software service ever, based on a free cloud-based HR platform for small businesses around the U.S., it makes the majority of its income from commissions when clients use their platform to purchase insurance. The model was genius, and the corporate culture was constructed to obtain those sales by any means necessary.
There was only one big problem: they’ve been accused of partnering with quite a few salespeople without the proper license to sell insurance, and reportedly skirted quite a few laws that would make for the legal sale of insurance products. That’s not just a small pebble they stumbled over; that’s a gigantic legal boulder that’s put them under the watchful eye of the Federal government and downgraded them as an investment. Conrad has stepped down, and the former COO, David Saks, has taken the helm. One of the first things he did was address the errors in culture that led to their current state. He’s quoted in a Forbes article as having sent an email with the following text:
“We must admit that the problem goes much deeper than just process…Our culture and tone have been inappropriate for a highly regulated company. Zenefits’ company values were forged at a time when the emphasis was on discovering a new market, and the company did that brilliantly. Now we have moved into a new phase of delivering at scale and needing to win the trust of customers, regulators, and other stakeholders.”
As someone who has made a career out of designing adaptable, successful corporate cultures, I feel that they could have benefitted from strong HR. As Saks stated in the email, the culture that founded the company is very different from the one that will right the ship and keep it afloat. Where it appears the first epoch of the company’s history could be best summed as “by whatever means necessary,” it safe to assume that through careful corporate assessment and an in-depth look at their culture and the talent that supports it, it will most likely evolve to “with our shareholders and customers at the center of whatever we do.”
When speaking of corporate culture, a static approach is never best. You don’t just build it and let it go, letting it self-maintain with performance evaluations, retention and turnover. It must be constantly assessed against the market, customer satisfaction, internal goals, and staffing needs. While the vision, mission, and values of the company remain standardized for long periods of time, corporate culture is an ever-evolving means to accomplish your objectives. It drives, incents, connects, and deploys your resources of a human variety, and without the proper tools to monitor it — and the sense to pay attention to red flags once they’re raised —you will meet with obstacles that are unpleasant. Most important, they can usually be avoided.
The proprietary culture assessment tools I’ve developed from years of experience paired with recent technological advances act as a canary in a coal mine. They’re capable of assessing the culture from all aspects, and paired with market information and 11 other data inputs (13 in total), they can give you a 360-view of your company that can warn of disasters such as these along with other issues, such as turnover/employee defection, potentially derailing internal disconnects, and so much more. You need to monitor corporate culture effectively and often, and I have the tools that can accomplish this and so much more.
More than ever, companies must truly look deep inside their ranks to ascertain what is going on. It’s no longer sufficient to simply rely solely on client and employee engagement data to give you a view of what’s happening with your company; this type of insight only scratches the surface at best. Most employee engagement data tell us 86% of people are disengaged, which is a warning sign within itself. Don’t you want to know why before that expense and productivity issue hits your bottom line? I know I would.
I believe that companies need to take on the issue of culture more than ever before. Dig deep and use tools like my Capacity Framework to connect deep, disparate data for a powerful, actionable source of information: customer data, engagement data, exit interview data, performance data and metrics, talent data and more. Prioritize your corporate culture, and take action on this type of data, outlining the top strengths and challenges for your company. It’s only by connecting all the dots that you will truly paint an accurate picture of what’s going on in your organization, and armed with that knowledge, you can take action and manage your culture as you would any other asset within your company. For it is an asset, perhaps your greatest, and it must be constantly minded as if it could tear your company apart if mismanaged.
Because the truth is — and this Zenefits example is an illustrative example — it most certain can.
About the Author: Rita Trehan is the Founder and Principal of Rita Trehan, LLC, a change management and leadership advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, emerging technology, and cutting-edge organizational design. As a seasoned top executive that has successfully transformed organizations at the Fortune 200 and beyond, she has extensive experience working with CEOs and top corporate management on process and organizational improvement for maximum profitability. A soon-to-be published author, Rita regularly speaks at industry conferences around the world. You can contact Rita on twitter at @rita_trehan and connect with her via LinkedIn. Rita’s blog can be found at www.ritatrehan.com.
The sign of any great conference is when you continue to mull over the ideas with which you’re presented and the concepts you learn even after the event itself is over. It’s now a little over a week since WorkHuman 2016 wrapped up, and I’m still contemplating much of what I heard.
The event closed on Wednesday afternoon with a keynote from business thinker and author Gary Hamel, in a session titled “For Human Being to Thrive at Work, Bureaucracy Must Die.” The closing keynote spot at any conference can be an unfortunate place on the agenda, as many attendees tend to cut out early to catch flights home. That just did not appear to be the case for most at WorkHuman, and we were treated to an energetic, entertaining, and very relevant message.
The overall theme of Gary Hamel’s keynote was that the design of most of our organizations is in direct conflict with human nature. He offered the following three truths:
- Humans are creative, most of our organizations are not
- Humans are adaptable, most of our organizations are not
- Humans are passionate, most of our organizations are not
And because of these truths, most of our organizations are less human than the people that work within them, and therefore waste more human capacity than they use.
A pretty sad state of affairs, isn’t it?
Hamel went on to suggest that our roles as leaders is NOT to get the people within our organizations to serve the needs of our organizations, it’s to build an environment with such a compelling purpose that our people voluntarily bring their individual gifts to work every day. And when they do that, if we utilize those gifts appropriately, they will contribute to the overall success of the organization. He then promised us seven ways to change the realities within our organizations (but actually only got around to five – probably because he was just so passionate about each one that he spent more time than he expected to on each).
The five ways he touched on were:
- Get Angry – that our workplaces as so designed that our people are forced to show up but leave their humanity at home
- Load Up On data – if you want to inspire and lead change, you need to speak to the head as well as the heart
- Find the Fringe – and then push the boundaries
- Develop a New Set of Principles – whether it be meritocracy, more collaborative decision making, finding and developing the natural leaders in your organization, or embracing the wisdom of the crowd
- Reinvent the “How” – enlarge the scope of decision making and embrace the idea that irregular people doing irregular things in irregular ways create irregular successes
Each of these probably each deserve their own post, and perhaps at some point I’ll revisit them, but for now I’ll leave you with this takeaway…
As HR leaders, we cannot be the champions of bureaucracy and the status quo, especially when that status quo runs contrary to the very nature of human beings. And for many HR professionals that can be a challenge; many by nature and training tend to want to preserve the status quo at all costs. But that is no longer a sustainable way to approach our businesses and workplaces. We have a duty to challenge these constructs that really don’t serve long term sustainability or promote great workplaces and bring out the best in our people, the people who make our businesses what they are.
That’s no easy task, and certainly we can’t do it alone, but we can be the ones at the forefront of the change. The “how” is the difficult part, but these five ideas for changing our realities are a good starting point.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
Women account for half the world’s working-age population globally. However, the persisting imbalance of women in positions of power has started a debate in corporate circles about the viability of a gender quota so as to encourage gender equality in corporate positions of power. But why so much hoopla about gender equality? For one, reports suggest that more women in higher roles reflect in the form of better performance for the companies. Moreover, companies that have women in leadership roles have traditionally fared better than their counterparts during times of financial crisis, similar to the recent one. Here is a detailed account of why women leadership would work better in certain situations and how can you promote the same in your office.
A study carried out by Pew Research Center on women and leadership; there is little difference between men and women in key leadership traits like ability to innovate and intelligence, while many observing they are even better than men when it comes to being compassionate and organized. Despite these facts, we see a very limited participation of women in boardroom discussions and at the upper management level. The story is same across all the continents, whether it is Asia, Europe and the US. In an extensive survey carried out by 20-first, a UK-based global gender consulting firm in 2014, women held only 11% of the 3,000 executive committee positions in 300 surveyed companies.
It’s good for financial performance of the company
Multiple research studies have been carried out in this direction. In 2007, a not-for-profit organization Catalyst reported that Fortune 500 companies having females as board members show significantly better financial performance than those having low female representation. The surveys took into account three points- return on sales, return on equity and return on the investment and found that companies having better female representation excelled on all the three parameters. Another major research that reports similar findings is that of DDI, (Development Dimensions International), a global talent management firm based out of US. According to DDI survey, companies that had majority of board members as women witnessed a substantial 87% better performance than their competition.
It’s better for the job economy, as a whole
Better financial performance of the organizations obviously leads to a better economic state where there are greater number of job opportunities, better productivity and more development. This improved financial health will directly reflect in the number of jobs that will increase proportionally. Whether it is marketing jobs or healthcare, the industry hardly matters as long as it is working towards better gender diversity.
It’s Better for Relationship Building
We all have a common understanding that women are equipped with better relationship building skills. This is backed by research from Harvard Business Review, which notes that female leaders are consistently rated a notch higher than their male counterparts in the category of relationship building. This is obviously a good thing for the organization as good peer to peer camaraderie is essential for keeping up the productivity at its optimum level. In addition to inter-office relationships, this skill is also going to boost a company’s client satisfaction levels and help expand the business.
It’s better for Collaboration
With good networking skills comes the ability to easily collaborate with colleagues, clients and workers across teams, functions, and departments. A paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research agrees on the fact that women are more attracted to cooperation than men. Men, often overestimate their capabilities, while downplaying those of their colleagues, while women are a better judge of their abilities and therefore are not averse to suggestions and help from their team members. In short, women make better team players than men.
Women are Better Communicators
While women undisputedly rule the roost when it comes to communication at personal level, does this also extend to businesses? If experts are to be believed, on the whole, women often make better communicators than men. Zenger Folkman, in their survey, also reported the same. A leader should and must have the ability to establish a crystal clear communication with his team members, clients and consumers. Women tend to be better listeners than men, and that’s what makes for a good leader.
It’s also better for men on the whole
Surprised, you might be, but gender diversity at leadership level or in the corporate in general is a good thing for men. This might sound lopsided, but there are many aspects to this argument. We could deal with them one by one.
Men have the freedom to break the norm
In the male dominated corporate world, a man’s identity is inseparably connected to his job, role and pay package. However, once the corporate world comes to term with the rising prominence of women, and their increasing participation in management decisions, this will take some performance pressure off the men’s shoulders. They will no longer be expected the default bread winner of their families, the sole earning member, who has to earn more than his spouse, and lead the family. Men can also try to be what they really want to be. They can break the stereotype and follow their passion, at least once in a while. It does give some breathing room and creates some kind of financial cushion to which they can fall back in case their plan B doesn’t work out as well.
Men can try to be a better parent
As more women take up careers and become an equally important financial support of the family, men can take some time off their work to be a better parent and run the family in a more involved, holistic fashion. When fathers work fewer hours per week, the family benefits, and it reduces the risk of behavioral problems in the kids that is often witnessed in children who had their fathers missing due to work.
About the Author: Saurabh Tyagi is a career and motivational author who consistently writes articles on various job related themes, including gender diversity in organizations. He has been published on various career sites such as under30ceo.com and blog.
In the hotel industry, the housekeeping department is comprised of room attendants (100% female) and housemen (100% male). Management is typically 90-100% female. This predominantly female management team often has difficulty working with the housemen. Housemen are responsible for public areas of the hotel such as the lobby, hallways, restaurant, and lounges. They range in age from 25-62 and ethnicities include Hispanic, African American, Asian and Caucasian. Most have been employed full time for 15 or more years. Housekeeping managers are often young (25-30) and have little experience. Some have been promoted from room attendant positions while others come straight out of hospitality school having spent a year or two as an intern or junior manager.
This dynamic is not easy to manage. A lot of conflict is generated around gender and experience (Who is she to tell me what to do? I’ve been here 10 years longer), and resistance to authority (She can’t change that- for what?). Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts for women to effectively manage an all-male team:
1. DON’T try to be ‘one of the gang.’ You are not one of them, so joining them on break, or inviting them to chat in the office only creates confusion and makes it more difficult to establish boundaries and effectively lead.
DO create an authentic relationship by showing interest in who they are. Notice a haircut, new glasses, logo on a hat or sweatshirt (I see you’re a Yankees fan). This builds a connection- you care about more than just getting the job done.
2. DON’T be defensive. When you are challenged (You’re wrong. Can’t use that chemical) you may automatically attempt to assert your power and position.(Do it my way! I’m in charge) but this will only serve to escalate the conflict.
DO be clear and responsive. You’ll need to make it clear that the worker must show respect even when disagreeing with you (We can discuss this, but no yelling or accusing). Be responsive to the worker’s idea (OK, so if not this chemical, what would you use?). This shows that while you have the final say, you are open to learning from those with more experience and can admit you don’t know it all.
3. DON’T let go of your authority. It is easy to become intimidated and overwhelmed by resistant and angry men. But retreating is not an option. The group needs leadership and structure, so for better or worse, you’re it.
DO lead in your own unique style. Think about what you have to offer: enthusiasm, sense of humor, passion for the work. Whatever you have, USE IT. Be authentic and honest when you don’t know something (I’m not sure what the policy is on X. Let me check it out) and admit your mistakes (Sorry, I was late ordering the supplies you need). Acknowledge the expertise of your staff (You know a lot more about this than I do) and elicit their help and feedback (What do you think and what’s past practice?). All this shows your humanity, which is crucial to building a strong relationship.
Managing an all-male staff as a female has its challenges, but the key is always authenticity. Be clear and direct and work through whatever comes your way. This is not always easy or comfortable, but well worth the effort. Stick with it and you’ll build strong relationships and an effective team.
About the Author: With a background in social work and 2 decades of experience as a union worker, Laura MacLeod created “From The Inside Out Project®,” with all levels of employment in mind to assist in maintaining a harmonious workplace. She is an adjunct professor in graduate studies at the Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work. MacLeod speaks on conflict resolution, problem solving, and listening skills at conferences across the country.
Welcome to another edition of…
The Funny Side of HR: From the Desk of a Woman of a Certain Age
Thank you for coming back to check on me “A Woman of a Certain Age”. I hope that you are enjoying my view of the evolution of all things HR including a hint of humor. Please feel free to leave your comments. I welcome your thoughts and your remembrances.
Last month, I discussed the job search process of yesteryear. The process was what we today can call “manual”. Everything was done on paper or with paper. Tons and tons of paper. Job seekers searched via newspapers. Companies advertised via newspapers. The job search world was paper logged. Agencies held job seekers captive. They were the proverbial gatekeepers of many companies, holding the key to the door, that we felt potentially housed thousands of open jobs. It was critical, therefore, to develop good, productive relationships with the Agencies to successfully navigate yourself into even a piece of a job. We smiled and greeted the Agent with reverence (even after having been told to wait and wait and wait in their “waiting room”) We waited with frozen smiles because we did not want to do anything that would inhibit, limit, trim or slim our prospects in ingratiating ourselves to our Agent. Agencies were in control. The process reminded me of going to a club, where the guard at the door selected who could come in and who could not.
Most companies did have human resource or recruiting offices. The test, though, was if you could locate them, if you could gain access, if you could find the direct number and if a “human” answered the phone. If the stars and moon aligned and Jupiter was in its house, you were able to get in and fill out an application. However, since you had no idea what opportunities were available, it was usually just that, you filled out an application and unbeknownst to you at the time, it went into the company Black Hole of Applications, never to be dug out again. (Come on now, I can’t be the only person who has experienced this!)
Today, while some companies still use agencies, the tides have significantly turned. Agencies now NEED Candidates (the word “candidates” is capitalized to show the turn of power). Companies have online applications. Candidates now have a Santa Claus bag of options available for free. They do not need agencies at the same level as in years past. Technology has come to the rescue.
With that being said…let’s talk about the job search process of today…
- If you do not have a computer, you might as well say “game over”. You need to get one (desktop, laptop or even a tablet). It is okay to have a “do it all, world of tomorrow,” Android phone. However, you need a computer to produce the still required, still arduous, still annoying resume and cover letter and to make sure you can provide and retain up to date information. (A printer with scan capabilities is also necessary…but first things first…get a computer).
- Yesteryear, there were no such things as websites. For the most part, the only way a company could obtain information on a candidate was to “wait and see”. Today, we all have the worldwide web and candidates can use it to strengthen their professional acumen and advertise expertise and experience. As a candidate, make sure you only incorporate information that will present you as professionally current and worthy of the type of employment you are seeking. Remember, whatever you put on the web can and usually does, remain indefinitely. Therefore, think twice…okay…three times before you put anything on the web that you wouldn’t want published on tv for all of your friends and family to see.
- Networking from the sofa. In-person networking is still one way to go, but not the only way, especially if you are on a budget. You do not need to get off the couch, get dressed and attend some potentially boring, get-to-know you, lack luster, no guarantee event that you most often have to pay for and expend transportation dollars. From the convenience of your home, while drinking a cup of coffee, you can make connections and develop professional relationships through a number of websites, i.e., LinkedIn.
- Application Process. There is one aspect of the job search process that has gotten much more convoluted and tiresome. That is the online application process. Let’ say you have found a company or agency that “seems” to have a position available that meets your qualifications. Rarely are there phone numbers to call (just like yesteryear). Sometimes there may be a direct email address to which you can submit your resume. However, most often, you need to complete an online application. You click on the job. You are connected to another site and have to click again. You are connected to another part of the site. You see no application. So you search the site and after a while (can be anywhere from a minute to many minutes), you find the application. You click APPLY. What?!! Now you need to create an account! You enter the information requested and of course, decide on a password (that you quickly forget) and click GO. Now you are asked a thesis amount of information, several pages. I don’t know who developed these arduous, long, time draining pieces of technology. In any case, since you are interested in the job and the company, you trudge on. I recall completing one of these hour long thesis questionnaires and when I finally got to the last page and clicked SUBMIT, it would not go through! The screen went blank and my only recourse was to start over! Did I? Absolutely not! Even if you were able to seemingly successfully transmit your information (you never know for sure what happens at the other end), rarely is there a return piece of communication. Now…where did all that information go? Oh…yeah….the Bermuda Triangle of Computer Applications located near the Black Hole of Paper Applications (from yesteryear)
- Resumes and Cover Letters. Again…another arduous, time consuming task, but by all accounts in the world of job searching, required (unless of course, your uncle owns a company and hires you). If you are not fortunate enough to be an heir, heir-in-law or family friend/relative of a business owner, you need to get your resume together. Resumes and cover letters are still your calling cards, but now one more element is included…“key words”. Key words are words that hiring managers and agencies use to search their database for resumes. These individuals no longer review each and every resume…they filter out resumes based on key words. If your resume does not include the necessary words that relate to the job you are seeking, off your resume goes to the Black Hole of Resumes (closely associated with the Black Hole of Applications) .
- Dress for Success. I can not tell you how much money I spent back in the day ensuring that my dark skirt suit, white shirt and pearls were perfect for the interviews. Climbing the ladder dressed for success has turned into wallowing in costumes of “accept me as I am”. (Just my observations). First impressions are sometimes lasting impressions, but some job candidates today, want individuality and expect companies to detour professionalism for individualism. While I am all for a more casual working environment, I still believe that interviews are the opportunity to put your best foot forward and show respect for the business. However, how can candidates show respect for the business when the interviewers lack the same. Many companies have acquiesced into a much more casual environment…even during the interview. Business casual is fine, but in some instances, there appears to be no boundaries. In fact, I recently had an interview and did my best to “dress for success” (no pearls) and was astonished to see the mid level interviewer dressed in old jeans and sloppy shirt. It really changed my impression of the organization. However, when I left the interview, I saw another candidate dressed in jeans and a button down shirt. How times have changed!
All in all, technology has made it easier and more time-efficient for both the job seeker and the hiring company. No more going to the library to do company research. The web allows for job seekers to do research on various companies easily and with little effort. However, once a company of interest is identified, you will probably be lead to an online application. (Refer to the Application section above).
One problem, though (at least for me), is keeping up with the trends and the multitude of options available. Certainly, technology in this process, can be considered impersonal. However, how personal was it yesteryear when we had to wait and wait at an agency or travel to a company and be told that they are not taking applications. Not very personal.
One aspect of the job search process that has not changed one iota is the dreaded compensation question. “What are you seeking in compensation?”. What kind of question is that? My first thought is to respond with, “how much are you paying?” We could go back and forth until one of us raises the white flag of surrender and gives up a number! But, if the number is too low, you may be disqualified. If it is too high, you may be disqualified. It is like being a contestant on The Price Is Right.
Lastly, I do think, that we still need to be visually considerate of the business, both as job seekers and those who are involved in the interview process. We don’t have to dress like we were on Dynasty (Remember, I am a woman of a certain age), but I do think we should be mindful as to how we are presenting ourselves. You may be able to do the job or hold the position, but what first impression are you giving to others? What are you exhibiting that shows time, effort and thought to support employment entrée into the company? And…as hiring managers, recruiters, how are you representing the importance of your role and the company? We all need to step back and look in the employment mirror. Just something, I think we should consider.
Thank you for reading my article and stay tuned for the next installment of “The Funny Side of HR….from a Woman of a Certain Age”.
About the Author: Jacqueline Clay is a freelance HR business consultant working with small and midsize organizations to assist them in meeting the challenging responsibilities associated with the full realm of HR management. With over 20 years leadership experience in all aspects of the HR business, she has helped organizations in a myriad of areas, including on boarding, labor/employee relations, policy and procedure development, organizational effectiveness, coaching and training. She holds a BA in Psychology from Fordham University.
I’ve noticed for some time now, at least amongst some HR professionals, and in some pockets of conversation within the HR world, that there has been a fair amount of discussion about the need to put the “human” back in human resources. Not so much implying that we’ve all become robots or total slaves to technology (at least not yet!), but rather that as we get busier, add more to our plates, and expand the scope of HR, or as we get caught in the grind of our day-to-day, that we also need to remember that first and foremost it’s PEOPLE we’re dealing with.
Yes there are policies and guidelines that need to be in place, at least in most workplaces, mostly to ensure that we are legally compliant, that our workplaces are safe and harassment free, and that there are standards in place for fair compensation. And with more and more technological solutions available to automate HR processes and make the function more efficient and effective, many HR pros are becoming more systems focused in their day-to-day jobs too.
But none of that changes the fact that it’s people that we are supposed to be advocates for. After all, in the end our function is not called “Policy Resources” or “Rules Resources,” or even “Technology Resources”…it’s Human Resources. Our reason for existence shouldn’t be just to enforce the rules of the company, or put systems and technology in place, but rather to ensure that all of those pieces in place are in the best interests of the people within the company. That they are not just arbitrary rules, systems, or processes, but that they are in existence to help build workplaces and cultures that encourage the best work out of everyone, ultimately in an effort to support company goals.
In fact, this isn’t really a new concept to me. For my entire career I’ve been trained and coached by my leaders in my HR practice to keep the needs of people front and center in decisions that are made. Even when a decision had to be made that wasn’t necessarily in the favor of the employee, the question that needed to be asked was “have we ensured that we’ve given them every opportunity to fix the issue first?” so that by that point the negative action had to be taken, it was more a function of facilitating what that person had already set in motion by their action, or lack of action. I’ve been taught over the years that it’s a huge responsibility, facilitating outcomes that can have an enormous impact on someone’s life, so at all times it’s critical to remember that the person you’re dealing with has bills to pay, perhaps a family to help support, and a life outside of your workplace. And it’s a concept that can extend way beyond just when dealing with issues and negative situations, it’s one that can be used to cultivate and promote positive outcomes as well.
On the surface it seem so simple, but in the midst of our day to day grind can be easily (if not intentionally) forgotten. After all, most of us that are working in the “HR trenches” have more on our plates than ever before. Not only are we dealing with issues, but we’re managing processes, evaluating and implementing technology, and various other responsibilities to help make our organizations successful.
Regardless, it’s a concept that not only can we not afford to forget, but can’t afford to not put front and center in not only our HR practices, but throughout our organizations as a whole.
And that’s where the idea of WorkHuman comes in.
WorkHuman is a concept started by the folks at recognition software company Globoforce, and it’s an idea that they are “all-in” passionate about. To quote the WorkHuman mission, it centers on the idea that “when companies harness the transformative power of human connections, well-being, purpose and communications, we build a work culture that both reminds us of our worth as individuals, and pulls us together in pursuit of shared success.”
In fact, the folks at Globoforce believe so strongly in the idea of WorkHuman and in building a movement around it, that last year they hosted their inaugural WorkHuman conference. I watched that conference from afar with great interest, and this year am jumping in to join the movement. It’s an entire event focused on building more human workplaces through great cultures, recognition, engagement, communication, and forging connection.
Seems like a worthy focus, doesn’t it? That only good could come out of promoting more human workplaces?
If you’re interested in learning more about building more human workplaces, join us in Orlando in May at WorkHuman 2016. You can register here. Use discount code WH16JP300 for $300 off the cost of registration. Hope to see you there!
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
Over the past decade, I have had the privilege of working alongside our educational system coaching (and teaching) leadership principles to the senior leaders in our educational institutions from New York City to the Rio Grande Valley. It has been an amazing experience, which has tremendously enriched my life and fulfilled my professional career. Recently, one of my incredible clients, Uplift Education, published a newsletter highlighting the issue of bullying in their schools, and how to address this reality. I was impressed with their coverage and their staunch stance of a ZERO TOLERANCE for bullying in their schools.
While reading their commentary, it was impossible for me not to realize that much of what they were addressing is not limited to children. Bullying is alive and well in our adult circles – professional and personal. Chances are each of us have experienced bullying at least once in our workplace, if not in our social circles. To be clear, let’s identify what we mean by bullying:
- The behavior toward another individual is deliberate. It is pre-meditated with the bully’s intention being to hurt someone – in some way.
- The behavior is repeated – over and over again. It becomes habitual and the ‘accepted’ approach toward the other person. The behavior may change in how it manifests – yet, the behavior is indeed consciously calculated and intentional.
- The power between the individual and the bully is imbalanced – real or imagined. There is perceived difference in power, status, strength, societal or political position, etc. between the bully and the victim – and the bully leverages that to their benefit.
With that as our baseline, how ‘bullying behavior’ shows up as an adult may vary from how it manifested as children. Physical bullying (hitting, pushing, slapping) is far more prevalent when we are younger, than as adults. However, other forms of bullying such as name-calling, divisive gossip, exclusion and deliberately getting others to hurt, exclude or ‘gang up’ on others, and cyber bullying via Facebook, and other social media mechanisms is much more widespread and common than many may realize.
As a team leader and leadership coach, I hear examples of this on a regular basis. Many of my clients have shared that team members are blocking them on Facebook or other social media channels, or withholding critical information they need to do their jobs. This also cripples their ability to become a part of the team and/or to foster spirit de corps. Others have stated how peers and team members have spoken half-truths about them and continue to proliferate these fibs and rumors to that individual’s demise and ongoing exclusion. Still others have ‘voted individuals off the island’ due to a simple difference in opinion, a different choice made, or just to assume a superior position that the bully’s victim.
Bullying in the workplace and in life can be completely disruptive not to mention hurtful. It is typically driven by the perpetrators’ need to control the targeted individual. This can be driven by jealously, insecurity, unbridled ambition, or an imagined sense of superiority. Bullying can show up by a set of acts by commission – actually DOING things to others; yet it can also manifest by acts of omission – which can be someone withholding resources from others or simply not being loyal and standing by the victim, to others. And in the worst of all cases, the bully involves others to gang up on the victim and those that ‘cave’ and do not stand tall to support the victim are in many cases the greatest bullies of all. Over the course of my adult life and career, I have been the victim of both types of bullying. It is no fun and can completely derail your self-confidence, and have you questioning your every thought, word, and deed – which is, of course, what the bully wants.
So what can we do about this reality? Well, there is a website that does an amazing job of highlighting a few steps to take when this happens in the workplace. It consists of shining a bright light on bullies in the workplace and requires nothing short of turning the workplace culture upside down. Bullies must experience negative consequences for harming others. Senior leaders need to call out that negative behavior, and certainly not reward it. Only Senior Leaders can reverse the trend; and if they actually support it – then the team and organization can become toxic. I have actually had a leader support the bully’s behavior, and that can be extremely disheartening. However, what I believe whole heartedly is this: the truth ALWAYS will reveal itself over time.
A few additional thoughts for consideration:
- Always take the high road.As our father has always taught us, ‘if you see it, so does everyone else’. So let the bully reveal their true behaviors – as over time, even if they are the best actors in the world, their passive aggressive, manipulative, and mean behaviors will be revealed.
- We need to try to do our best to LIVE the Golden Rule.Yes, trust me when I say this can be hard when folks have been ugly and divisive relative to you and your work. Yet, again, as my parents would say – at least you can sleep well at night knowing you are living YOUR life in integrity and with purity of intention.
- Take care of your health during these stressful times.When folks are mean to us, if we internalize this, it will most certainly show up in our bodies. Thus, we need to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Eat well. Exercise every day at least 30 minutes. Consider Yoga or medication to help lower your blood pressure.
- Finally, we need keep these ‘evil doers’ in our prayers.It is impossible to harbor ill will against someone when we pray for them – of this I am 100% certain.
What are your thoughts? What suggestions to you have when we face situations like this in life and/or in business?
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken? Random Encounters That Change Your Life, was released on 11/1/11 to national acclaim, and endorsed by Stephen Covey and John Maxwell, among others. Her second book in the series, entitled Is This Seat Taken? It’s Never Too Late to Find the Right Seat was released 1/13/15. It has already been endorsed by notables such as Marshall Goldsmith, Sean Covey, and Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines. This book shines the light on late in life reinvention and encore ‘second half’s’ of diverse individuals. The individuals are in some cases widely known and others are somewhat anonymous to the mass public. The common thread is their ‘post-50’ resurgence in life and in some cases their ‘fork in the road’ is quite serendipitous. Kristin’s third book, a sequel to ‘Is This Seat Taken?’ will follow later in 2015. Kristin is on Twitter as @kristinkaufman.