Older Workers are Becoming Invisible

quote-Jeanette-Winterson-whats-invisible-to-us-is-also-crucial-90396My twelve year old son loves to play the game Would You Rather with me.  Have you played?  You basically ask the person to choose between two things and sometimes, they give a reason.  For example, he recently asked me, “Mom, would you rather be invisible, or have the ability to teleport?”  As you can see, this is a question that may cause a gut reaction, but when you start thinking about it, you begin to come up with many reasons why one choice may be better than the other.  For the record, I chose the ability to be invisible.  The truth is, I may have that ability sooner than I think.

A few days ago, I read a friend’s comment on Facebook.  He was at a client location that was filled with beautiful, young people and as they all walked by, he felt old.  For the record, this friend is in his forties, like me.  Another friend commented that once you reach a certain age, you basically become invisible.  I admit, I never really thought about that before.  While I’m not quite ready to buy into the idea that a person in their forties is “old”, I have thought about older workers, namely from my parents’ generation, that are starting to feel left out or ignored in the workplace.

Have you ever felt this way?  Are you old enough that this is happening, or starting to happen?

Maybe the problem is we’re all so focused on the younger generation and making them happy that we are forgetting that much of our organizational knowledge is walking around unnoticed.  In fact, if left unnoticed, are the organizations missing out on ways to actually improve our bottom line?  It seems like this “invisible generation”, formerly know as the Silent and Boomer generations, are actually starting to get a little notice again.

Take for example the movie The InternThe plot has a “senior”, played by Robert DeNiro, who becomes the intern for a young, vibrant CEO, played by Anne Hathaway.  For several months, she not only ignores him, she doesn’t even give him a second thought.  She can’t see the value that is sitting right before her eyes.  I don’t want to spoil the movie, but the point is that older workers are often passed by when we’re in need of support, good ideas, or differing opinions on how to handle something.  It’s such a shame.

All this talk of older workers becoming invisible leaves me with more questions than answers, for now.

Do you have someone older in your life that could provide a different, fresh perspective in your work?

If you are the older person, do you reach out to colleagues who are just starting out or who are earlier in their career to offer advice and counsel that is judgement-free?

If you’ve been lucky enough to have an older mentor in your life, what is the best piece of advice he or she has given?

If you work in an organization or on a team that has little diversity in age, what are you going to do to reach out to a colleague of another age?

How can the idea of capturing the value of more “senior” advice be applied in the workforce today?

In order for organizations to be successful in the future, they are going to need to be able to capture all the knowledge of their older workers.  By taking active steps to ensure that these employees do not feel invisible, you’ll not only be capturing that information, you’ll be ensuring that those employees feel valued and engaged for the remainder of their employment.

 

 

Stop Aligning Yourself With the Wrong People

bad-friends*From the dusty archives…

Growing up, my parents steered me away from friends who had undesirable behavior.  Now that I’m a mom, I find myself doing the same thing with my children. Why?  Today’s lesson is a simple one…  you are the company you keep.

  • If you surround yourself with people of good reputation, you will be viewed positively.
  • If you associate with accomplished professionals, you will pick up on what makes them successful.
  • If you affiliate with people who have good values, you will be perceived in the same light.

It frustrates me to see people who surround themselves with people of questionable character.  If you align yourself with people who are arrogant, rude, negative, unmotivated, or who lack a moral compass, you will be perceived similarly.  That is a FACT. 

So, take a good look in the mirror today.  Then, take a look at your contacts online and in your day-to-day life.  If there are people of questionable character, now is your chance to unfollow, unfriend, or dis-associate from them.   You don’t have to associate with negativity.  After all, you ARE the company you keep.  What do you think?

Need a New HR System? What Leaders Need to Know

This has been a big month for the HR Happy Hour show.  First, we are THRILLED to welcome our new partner and sponsor, Virgin Pulse to the HR Happy Hour show!  Virgin Pulse, part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, designs technology that cultivates good lifestyle habits for your employees. This is especially important if you want to better engage your employees and help them participate in ways to improve their well-being.  Please visit them at www.VirginPulse.com for more information.

This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and I talked with Dave Fiacco, President and COO of PeopleStrategy. As President and Chief Operating Officer of PeopleStrategy, David Fiacco sets the bar high and ensures the company upholds its promise to deliver exceptional solutions coupled with extraordinary service.

Dave talked with us about a topic that leaders everywhere struggle with.  Do you need a HR system?  Do you need to upgrade your system?  If so, how do you know and what are the steps?

Some of the issues we tackled on the show:

-What considerations should HR think about during the process of moving from using Excel or other home grown tools to an actual HR system?

-How do HR leaders (or other leaders) decide if a suite or point solution is what they need?

-How does the type of solution you choose tie into pricing?


Remember to download and subscribe the the HR Happy Hour on iTunes, or using your favorite podcast app for iOS or Android – just search for ‘HR Happy Hour’ to never miss an episode.

Working Human: Happiness, Satisfaction and Engagement in the Workplace

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.40.13 PMWhere do you stand when it comes to thinking about the impact of happiness in the workplace?  Do you fall in the camp that believes that employers can make employees happy?  If so, what specific actions can they take to make the employee happier?  If not, do you think that employees are the only ones who can make themselves happy?  That leads to examining the idea that maybe it’s not about happiness at all.  What if it’s more about satisfaction or engagement?

These are the types of questions that HR practitioners and other business leaders are wrestling with in the workplace every day.  Enter the Globoforce WorkHuman conference to help us have a better understanding of the impacts of happiness, recognition, and giving thanks to our workforce.  I’m here in lovely Oralndo, Florida to participate in the 2nd annual WorkHuman event.  I have to tell you that as an invited guest, I would still tell you if I didn’t believe in the event.  In fact, I wouldn’t come.  This is one of those events where I can find lots to learn and many new business people to engage in discussion with on some fairly challenging topics.

We kicked off today with several general sessions that covered many of the questions in my opening paragraph.  Derek Irvine shared some statistics about companies who approach work from incorporating a more human experience.  According to Derek, “Companies that have succeeded with environment saw a 31% increase in productivity and their employees take 10x less sick leave.”  In addition, he challenged the audience members not to underestimate the power of a simple “thanks”, as that act can have a positive impact on engagement and discretionary effort.

The next session focused more on happiness and how it can impact our employees.  Harvard professor Shawn Achor shared research about the potential for person / employee to impact people around them.  Let me start by telling you that Shawn’s energy and passion for his topic is contagious.  I am always a little cynical, but he really spoke to the optimist buried inside me.  His research is showing that true happiness is not coming just by equating it with success because our brains are constantly redefining success.  He said that happiness comes when you are moving toward your potential and by helping others reach theirs.  It made me wonder if people can truly be happy if they aren’t moving toward potential? Can there be a stopping point?  I’m wondering if the phase of life you’re in can have an impact on this.  So many good questions arising from these sessions.

Obviously, events like this really make you think beyond the every day approach to work.  Stay tuned for more information from WorkHuman and be sure to weigh in with a comment if you have any ideas or opinions on happiness, engagement, impact or any ideas from the post.

 

Gen X Used to Feel Entitled Too- Did You?

generation-xSo, you think the Millennials invented the idea of feeling entitled?  Well, it’s not true.  No, other generations of young people have felt entitled.  I felt that way too.  Yes, Gen X has our share of dreamers and employees that were so eager to take on new challenges.  The difference I’m seeing is that when I was early in my career, I had older and wiser bosses who knew just when and how to put me in my place.  There wasn’t concern about hurting feelings with direct feedback.  They just did it.  They lived it.  I never once felt coddled.

I remember being twenty-seven years old and feeling like I knew it all.  I thought I knew better than my boss and I really believed I could “see the big picture”.  I just knew he was holding me back.  After all, I had a M.A. in HR Management and a few years of experience.  Why couldn’t he SEE how ready I was for a promotion?

Well, for starters, I didn’t put in enough time.  In my exempt role, I thought work could be left at the door when I headed for home.  Second, I didn’t do anything proactive to continue my learning in the human resources field.  No webinars.  No articles.  Nothing.  Third, I focused on administrative tasks.  I wasn’t stretching myself to think of the impact of my tasks.  Fourth, I had no idea what my boss really did.  To me, it looked like he was on the phone and in meetings.  How hard was that?

I remember the day I told my dad this boss was holding me back.  He gave me some great advice that I still embrace today:

  • Shadow your boss.  Find out what he really does and how he reached that position.  Watch for skills he uses to connect with people in the company and if he is successful, model those.
  • Come to work early and work late.  Learning how to do more than administrative tasks takes time and practice.  Back then, this meant many hours in the office.  Today, using technology, it’s easy to work early in the morning or late at night from the comfort of your home.
  • Keep educating yourself.  Always.  It’s not your company’s responsibility to do it all for you.
  • Volunteer to take on more challenging work without expecting money or title. Those will come in time.

Somehow, I made it to a more mature state of mind.  I like to think I grew up.  Not sure that it had anything at all to do with my generation, it was just more of a life lesson.

How did you progress through your career?  Did you experience any similar feelings?  What generation are you part of?

I’d love to hear all these answers (and more), so please jump over to my short, pulse survey on Generations and Leadership.  It takes 1- 3 minutes to complete and I really appreciate the feedback!

 

Holding HR in High Regard Around the Globe

There are moments in life that you anticipate with great joy and fear: graduation, marriage, the birth of a child, a big promotion or a trip to a foreign country.  Last week, I had the opportunity to experience traveling to China for the first time, and it certainly turned out to be one of those great moments of a lifetime.

Madeline and Trish ChinaI was invited to speak at the first HR Technology China conference presented by LRP Publications and China Star.  The anxious feeling I had in anticipation of the trip and during the 22 hours of travel led to a great release of adrenaline when I finally landed in Hong Kong.  With friendly, welcoming faces of industry leaders Madeline Laurano and Steve Boese to greet me, I was ready to experience all that China had to offer.

This was the first event put on by LRP and China Star ,and the results were nothing short of amazing.  Held in mainland China in the city of Zhuhai, the trip from Hong Kong via ferry boat was invigorating.  As I looked out at the Hong Kong – Zhuhai – Macao Bridge (HZMB) being constructed in the waters of Lingdingyang of Pearl River Estuary, I began to appreciate the development of the region.  As far as the conference goes, with nearly 6,000 registrants mostly comprised of HR practitioners and leaders, the energy was palpable.

As I, along with a handful of speakers from the US, settled in to meeting the China Star team, we were amazed at the level of interest they had in our being at the event.  We quickly learned that the formality of the relationship between the HR vendor, the event and the Zhuhai government officials was a close knit one.  Several of us were invited to a special meeting with Liu Jiawen (Vice Mayor of Zhuhai), Wang Qingli (Vice Mayor of Zhuhai), Hua Fuzhou (President of China Association for Labor Studies), and many other important dignitaries of the Zhuhai municipal government.  It was an honor to be welcomed and the experience was filmed and photographed for their local news.  Quite exciting!

From there, it was a whirlwind of dinners, presentations, then then the main conference.  Steve Boese welcomed everyone on behalf of LRP and kicked off the new event.  The keynotes, including one by our industry expert Jason Averbook, were nothing short of inspired.  The other keynote presentations, including one by former US Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, were filled with passion for HR, data, and the importance of technology.  The realization that the Chinese hold HR in high regard, as many of us do here in the US, was a revelation.  Some of the commonalities were the focus on:

  • Talent Acquisition- Finding the best hires for an emerging market that is becoming more services dominated is a key priority.
  • Branding– Employer branding that goes hand-in-hand with the extensive branding of the cities themselves is a focus.  The combination made for an interesting juxtaposition.  I believe that US organizations who embrace this approach may find an easier time with recruiting for either hard to fill positions or for staffing in cities that may have had a less desirable past.
  • Engagement- Engaging employees is important globally.  As I learned in the Middle East at the end of 2015, and in Europe and China in 2016, this remains one of the top concerns for business leaders, not just HR leaders.  This tells me there is still a great opportunity for HR leaders, vendors, consultants and analysts when it comes to finding solutions to this age-old problem.

I shared with you the innovative, hard-working and proud side of the people I met in China in my earlier post about coaching.  From the way this event incorporated students to the way they embraced all of us from the US, HR Technology Conference China gave the impression that it will be around for years to come.

As an added bonus, I was able to spend a few days in Hong Kong visiting local markets, restaurants, and stores.  I was even lucky enough to spend a day at Disneyland Hong Kong!  For anyone who knows me, Disney is one of my favorite places, so being able to see the Chinese version was just amazing!  13012784_10156876605550523_1407773878852074846_n

I encourage you to follow the HR Technology Conference here in the US for more information about China next year.  It is worth making a business case for, or for investing in your own career and making the trip.

Thanks again to LRP Publications, Rebecca McKenna, Steve Boese and the whole LRP team.  Thank you also to China Star for the gracious hosting.  Lastly, thank you to my US based HCM colleagues for making my first trip to China a memorable one.

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

*from the dusty archives, but still relevant today…

Growing up, did you imagine yourself as a professional baseball player or firefighter?  Maybe you wanted to be a ballerina, movie star or princess.  As children, we all have dreams and fantasies of what we’ll be like as adults.  As we approach our teen years, we tend to start giving it more thought and consider being doctors, veterinarians, or other jobs we hear about.

When did you know what you wanted to be?

I heard a 23 year old young lady tell the story of how she went off to college completely unsure of what she wanted to do.  She couldn’t decide.  Now, at 23, she had dropped out to figure it out.  She was frustrated it didn’t just come to her.

Some people have a calling, some of us are told what our parents think we should become, and some just have to figure it out.  I am quite certain I had no idea what human resources was as I was growing up so it would not have been a career to consider.  It wasn’t until half way through college that I figured it out.

On the flip side

The other side of the coin is that maybe it’s better to never get settled into something to the point you get stagnant.  In the HR industry, there are so many options of how to use your skills that you can start out working in recruiting, move to compensation analysis, choose another job in benefits and wind up leading HR for a company.

So, how would you advise that 23 year old?  I’d tell her to:

  • Ask herself what she really loves doing, not for money.  Then, try to find a job that incorporates that, or skills like that, into a job.
  • Finish her education.  If nothing else, make sure to get a good general education.  It’s not so much about learning the subjects, it’s learning how to think and process information.  It’s learning how to organize and plan.  All good skills for many careers.
  • Job Shadow.  When in doubt, find several jobs that seem interesting and ask to shadow someone who does that job.

What advice would you give?  Share in the comments….

Over 40? Don’t Work More Than 25 Hours a Week

clockHave you heard about the recent study released by the University of Melbourne’s Neuroscience Institute?  In their Applied Economic and Social Research study, they looked at the optimal number of hours a week an employee should work.  Their findings were surprising, to say the least.  Research showed that for every hour you work up to 25 hours a week, your cognitive function steadily increases.  Any hours worked above that threshold sees a decline in cognitive function.  They also say that workers over 40 who work more than 25 hours a week have a harder time recovering from any loss in cognitive function.

If this is true, you can only start imagining the implications.  When you think about the employees that are the decision makers in an organization, it is typically people over 40 years old who work more than 40 hours per week.  In fact, many work 50- 60+ hours a week.  What does it mean when you have your leaders losing cognitive function, yet making major strategic decisions?  Is this something we should worry about?  Additionally, when you think of the traditional 8 hour workday, there are many employees that waste several hours a day at work, so are they already working 25 hours per week?

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think this study will make anything change overnight.  However, it does give food for thought as we look to ways of working smarter and more collaboratively.  Some questions that come to mind:

  • Would providing a more collaborative workplace be able to support employees working fewer hours?
  • Are there certain times of day where decision-making is optimal?  If so, could concentrating work hours around those times lead to being able to work fewer hours?
  • Are there process changes that can be made to better support employees working PT hours?
  • If workplace changes were made, would employees even agree to work fewer hours?  Would this mean less pay, or more productivity in fewer hours?
  • What are the cost savings associated with more PT workers?
  • Do these findings better support the claim that by 2020, as many as 40%- 50% of jobs will be held by contingent workers?

Like many research studies, there are more questions than answers.  The next thing we know, researchers will be telling us to drink at work.  Oh wait, they already have.  At any rate, it’s fun to think about all the implications.  What do you think?  Would working fewer hours be good for you?  For your organization?  I welcome you to tell me what you think in the comments.