Do Features Trump Attitudes in Workplace Mobility?

chairMy son is winding down his baseball season.  Baseball at the 11U level can be energizing, invigorating, heart-breaking and flat out tiring.  As a parent, you trek far and wide with a car load of 11 year old boys all talking a mile a minute.  They talk about the team they are about to face, the latest Pokemon cards traded or the most recent conquest in Call of Duty.  It’s a dusty, dirty, sweaty mess of boys and I love every second of it.

One of the reasons I enjoy it is that I have the perfect folding chair.  Now stay with me for a moment…I know that little league baseball, folding chairs and business may not seem to have a direct link, but I believe they do.  You see, I spend a lot of time watching games and sitting, so the chair is important.  Not only is it a place to put my body, it’s turned into a whole functional experience that is fully accessorized for each occasion.

The chair I have is from Gander Mountain and it is more than a chair and the traditional cup holder.  In fact, it has a full cooler that drops down and loads of pockets so that I can stock it with drinks, snacks and all my electronic gadgets.  It’s also mobile so that I don’t have to be relegated to the bleachers at the game, I can take my light-weight chair and move it based on the environmental conditions.  I can get the best view, avoid or seek sun and most importantly, choose who to sit near.  The truth is that I usually sit somewhere near home base and often, by the same people.

Imagine if we had that flexibility at work with our work environment.  It’s not a novel concept.  In fact, organizations have been trying to find the best way to offer mobile furniture options and configurations for over 15 years.  While some are successful, many are not.  It’s not because the furniture doesn’t have the right features or ease of movement, it’s because even though employees ask for mobility, once they settle in, they really don’t want to move.  We become tied to the people and location where we perform the act of work, whatever that is.  We tend to rely on the people around us to say hello every morning, to discuss the same tired stories, and to eat our lunch or take our breaks at the same time too.

So is the issue lack of organizations offering flexibility and mobility or is it the fear of the people?  What if we assume it’s the latter?  How does that change your approach when you think of the workplace in the future?  What changes would you put in place to truly encourage greater partnership, collaboration and movement within your organization?  How would you move the people with the “right” skills around the organization most effectively?

It turns out that all the features, options and mobile workspaces won’t change the attitudes of your workforce.  You have to start at the core….when you hire.  You have to bring people into the organization who embrace a spirit of work flowing through the organization rather than being “owned” by specific departments or divisions.

How does this look in your workplace?  Do you have a truly collaborative and innovative workplace?  If so, share it in the comments.  If not, why do you think it’s not that way and can it adapt to the changes in work styles that are coming in the next 5 years?  If change can’t happen, will you just wind up with fancy folding chairs that don’t help the overall future of work?

Grieving at Work- Strategies for Coping

grief2I worked in the HR trenches for most of my career and at every job, the trusty EAP brochure was not far from reach.  The only trouble is, employees just don’t tend to use the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) benefits and resources as often as we would hope.  Honestly, more employees would rather have a chat with someone in HR or a colleague and tell us their most personal troubles than to search online or through a brochure for something to help whatever ails them.  I know EAP has so many great benefits from financial advice, life changes advice (marriage, birth of a baby, divorce) and even bereavement advice, I feel like there has to be more that HR can offer.

I recently lost my grandmother to Alzheimers.  I was very close to her and visited her often, especially during the last ten years of her life.  The company I was with at the time only offered one day of bereavement for the death of a grandparent.  No consideration was given to the closeness of the relationship.  No call was received to give condolences.  So, in my extreme grief, I decided to reach out to my friends on Facebook for some suggestions of how to cope with the tremendous loss since I had never lost someone so close to me.

My friends and chosen colleagues in the HR world first embraced me in the most loving support I could hope for.  Then, they shared their personal tips on how to deal with grief.  Since death is a part of life, I want to share the tips here today in hopes they will help you, someone you love, a friend, or even a co-worker in need.  Here we go:

  • Hugs- Take hugs from everyone you can.  The act of being embraced actually makes you feel better and helps calm your body’s reaction to the grief.
  • A good joke-  It may seem like the wrong time to joke, but laughing launches chemicals in the brain to help you feel better.
  • Getting outside- A nice long walk, a game in the park, or a run may be just what you need to get your adrenaline going.
  • Prayer- While I know not everyone believes the same truth, if you pray, it can really help you.  Some of my most comforting moments were sitting in church.  My grandma died just before Easter, so a challenging time to hear that message, but ultimately very helpful.
  • Good friends- As much as you may want to be alone, the company of a good friend can lift your heart.  It also helps them feel like they are helping you.
  • Remembering good times with the loved one-  This is one I found difficult at first.  I didn’t want to think about her at all because it hurt too much.  Over the months, this one has gotten easier and now, I find that remembering fun times with Grammy really do help.
  • “Embrace the Moment”- My good friend Prudence Kumming told me to do this.
  • Street Wisdom– My sweet friend David D’Souza gave me the advice to read this blog.  So glad he did because I would have never found it without his suggestion.  It’s the story of how you can use the environment where you live to help you work through issues, concerns and thoughts.  So creative.
  • Let people help- One of the hardest things to do, if you’re like me, is let anyone help you.  Of all times, when you’re grieving is when it’s comforting to have someone take care of you.  Embrace it.
  • Care for yourself and be gentle with yourself-  This one comes from a brilliant woman, Heather Bussing.  So often we don’t take care of ourselves in these situations, we are too busy worrying about everyone else.  I was guilty of this.  Once I sat down and focused on this, I started feeling more like myself.
  • Books- My wise friend Margo Rose made several solid book recommendation for dealing with grief.  Healing After Loss was one and books by Kahili Gibran are supposed to do the trick.
  • Grief counseling-  If grief is too much to bear, see a grief counselor.  This is where the EAP can come in handy in terms of recommending local experts to help you.
  • Music- One of the things I found helpful was to listen to songs I know my Grammy loved.  Celebrating them through music is a very uplifting experience.
  • Sticking to a routine- I remember during my first real job, an employee lost a loved one.  I thought they would take the week off as bereavement and they came to work.  To my surprise, he told me that it was easier to continue the daily routine so he didn’t feel so bad.
  • “Living the Full Catastrophe”- My dear friend Geoff Webb made this suggestion.  Allowing yourself to feel and experience ALL parts of the process is the only way to really get through it.
  • Celebrate the person you lost- I’m seeing this more and more.  Sharing pictures and stories of the person who passed is a way to celebrate their life, not grieve the loss.
  • Sleep/ eat/ exercise-  It should go without saying, but making sure you do all the life basics is key to grieving.
  • Time Alone- My amazing friend Eric Winegardner suggested taking 2 days, or so, away.  Go somewhere by yourself and just be.
  • Understanding how Shiva is observed-  My wise and feeling friend Naomi Bloom shared the Jewish practice of Shiva.  Even though I am not of that faith, I admit that learning about it and taking some cues from the steps were very helpful in my dealing with my grief.

As you can see, there are many ways to deal with grief.  So, next time someone comes in your office and is struggling, feel free to give them the EAP brochure, but make additional suggestions.  They’ll welcome the input and information they may have never considered.

Be good to yourselves and feel free to share your tips on dealing with grief in the comments.  We’d all love to learn from it.

The Future of Performance Reviews

May2014_ValueOfPeerAssessment_TNA question that I’ve wrestled with as a HR practitioner over the years, and one I am often asked about now, is what is the value of performance reviews.  It’s been something that employees and managers dread in most organizations I’ve worked with.  For many, the review never even happens and the employee is blindsided if things go south.  For other employees, they get the review once a year and it’s a time of having the boss go over every single thing you did wrong, even though the boss never mentioned those things to you throughout the year.  Either way, there is certainly room for improvement in the way employees receive feedback.  Organizations today are debating whether to keep the process as it is, make an overhaul, or throw out the whole concept.

Steve Boese and I invited guest, Eric Mosley, CEO of Globoforce, to the HR Happy Hour to discuss this topic because the negativity often associated with performance reviews continues to grow world-wide. According to Eric, most employees hate having their performance reviewed and most managers hate giving them.  Eric says it’s a business process that seems cast in stone, but that can change.  You can check out the podcast here:

In addition to the podcast, I want to provide a list of some of the pros and cons of performance reviews. While not an all-inclusive list, these are just a few thoughts to get you thinking about the aspects that work if you use performance reviews, and what may not, so you can begin to make changes to your organization’s process and approach.  Many vendors are beginning to incorporate some of the best aspects into their technology, so be sure to check out the Talent Management vendors for the latest in this area.

PROS

  • Employees still desire feedback and the review process, if more frequent and positive, can inspire employees to reach greater heights in the organization.
  • Feedback can help people improve their skills.  Many employees like guidance from a mentor who can provide a framework for them to develop.
  • Companies who can actually tie performance to pay are more trusted.  Employees trust leaders when the leaders are transparent about company performance, leader performance and employee performance.
  • Companies who have multiple raters give a more holistic view of the employee’s performance (Crowdsourced Review as mentioned by Eric Mosley).

CONS

  • If only one rater is used, there is a lack of objectivity in the overall review.  The person performing the rating can be tired, have only partial information or knowledge, can have bad motives, etc.  Many factors lead to lack of objectivity.
  • The myth of pay for performance is pervasive.  Even companies with the best intent tend to miss the mark of actually tying pay increases and/or promotion to actual performance measures.  HR technology is helping in this area.
  • Managers are not always the best judge of what is needed for career development.  If a manager is struggling in their own career, which many are, they are not equipped to give career advice and guidance to their staff.
  • Managers have their own agendas.  Organizations have their own internal politics and a manager’s agenda or standing within the organization can have drastic impact on your review (both positively and negatively).
  • Managers are unprepared.  Whether they claim not to have time to prepare and conduct the review or if he just doesn’t have a solid understanding of how to give feedback, the manager’s ability greatly impacts your review.
  • Employees know it can be a black mark on their career.  Many managers do not know the things you achieve daily or weekly.  If they miss giving feedback on some of your more important work, it can make it appear that you are not doing a good job when you really are.
  • For many organizations, the same form they have always used has been made available online.  The form and what is measured has not been changed from an experiential standpoint.
  • Managers use books and sample text instead of writing their own reviews and comments.
  • Annual is not often enough.  Too much time passes and the rater tends to focus on either the most negative aspects or only the most recent.
  • Time spent on reviews is not showing a high ROI or actual improvement on performance.
  • Reviews are often used to specifically counsel people out and provide the documentation to back up the decision.

The pros and cons of performance has been debated over the years.  Just last year on the March 19 episode of The Diane Rehm Show  on NPR, a discussion was led by Frank Sesno on the topic.  The panel discussed the pros and cons to performance reviews in today’s workplace and the impact they have. One of the experts, Brian Kropp (managing director of the HR practice at CEB), said this, “Most of the time, it’s backward looking and negative.  And, one of the things about the backward looking and negative part of it is that you’re usually getting performance feedback about things that you did three months ago, six months ago, nine months ago, 12 months ago.  The applicability of that backward looking information to your performance today is actually pretty low.”

As you’ll see from my list, I was able to come up with more Cons than Pros.  That’s ok because it gives us a place to start improving.

Solutions for the Future

If you’re in the position to review your organization’s approach and make changes, what are some steps to take right away?  There are a few:

  • Feedback needs to be reciprocal.  Make sure that multiple raters are used for the employee.  Additionally, give the employees the ability to rate the performance of the managers.
  • Make it constructive and forward-looking.  Provide training so that all managers and staff understand the goal is to be constructive, not to tear each other down.
  • Make it often.  Don’t just review someone once a year or never.  Give feedback all the time so that the employee knows when they do something well and when something needs a bit of improvement.

What have you seen work in your organization?  Be sure to share in the comments.

Make Your Dreams Come True: Just DO IT!

shia-lebeouf-ted-talk-spoofI saw the hysterical faux TED talk by Shia Labeouf and cracked up.  It is a minute long rant where he passionately and aggressively compels you, the viewer, to JUST DO IT.  If you haven’t watched it, go DO IT now.  It’s a fun minute of your life.

Look, I don’t know what motivated him to create this piece of brilliance, but I’m glad he did.  While funny at first, the message to me came through a little delayed.  It’s not to just do it, at least not exclusively.  It’s to make your dreams come true.  Don’t rely on your family, your friends or your employer to make them come true.  It’s not on their shoulders to take on that responsibility. One of the best lines is, ” You’re should get to the point where anyone else would quit but you’re not going to stop there.” That’s what most of us do.  We know what we want, but we stop short and let our own thoughts, hang-ups and insecurities get in our way. What if you didn’t do that anymore?  What if I didn’t?

Today it’s all on YOU to do it.  To “Just Do It”.

Even crazy sometimes makes perfect sense.

Thanks Shia!

Do You, or Your Company, Screw Up Meetings?

no_meetings_funny_office_saying_sticker-r8f98b046a5c14c4eb859a1553d1b3360_v9waf_8byvr_512A friend recently shared a funny video about conference calls and what they would look like if they were in person.  It’s made the social media rounds, but was still good for a laugh one more time.  It got me thinking about meetings… specificaly conference calls, since I work from home.  I pulled up my calendar and just looking at 2015, it appears I spend anywhere between 10- 50% of my week sitting in some type of meeting.

Like many jobs, the meeting has turned into the commonly accepted way of disemminating information as well as a way to bring people together.  The issue is that it has become the most irrelevant mode of communication for many reasons.  Here are just a few:

  • Employees don’t have time to get their other work done.  I don’t know about you, but when I am stilling in a meeting or on a call, there is no way I can do anything else.  I sit there the whole time thinking about all the other work I need to be doing, especially if I’m one of the people in the meeting who doesn’t really need to be there.  This leads me to…
  • The wrong people are invited.  How many meetings are you asked to attend and when you walk out (or hang up) you’re thinking “Why was I just in that for an hour?”  All the time!  Meeting organizers need to think long and hard about who is invited.  As a rule of thumb, if you don’t plan on the person making a verbal contribution to a decision, don’t invite them to the call.  Find another routine way to send information for those who need to know, but don’t need to make the decision.
  • The meeting takes too long.  I was listening to a show about the TED talk recently and they said that TED landed on the 18 minute presentation because it’s about how long an adult can remain focused without drifting to thoughts of something else.  Seems about right when I think of my own attention span at a meeting.  Try this….make your next meeting 18 minutes.  Your colleagues will thank you and be much happier to attend any future meetings you organize.
  • Speaking of time….it doesn’t end when it’s over.  One of my biggest pet peeves in work life is that meetings are scheduled for an hour.  Often, even if the agenda has been gone through, people still hang in there and add more.  We’re all adults here.  If you tell me we’re going to talk about these four things and we finish, end the meeting.  Employees have 20 other things on their plate they can go back and work on.  Don’t drag out what isn’t necessary.  If this means that one meeting is 18 minutes and the next is 31, great.  At least you won’t be keeping everyone the full hour.  I used to have a boss that would say he was “gifting” the time back to us.  I love that and always walked out with a smile on my face.
  • Distractors ruin the moment.  This is a BIG no-no in my book.  If you’re leading the meeting and a person (or two) derail the meeting with nonsense, stop them.  It’s disrespectful to everyone to let that happen.  We’re not all here for fun and chit-chat, it’s work.
  • Late people interrupt the flow.  This is a related cousin of the last one.  If you’re arriving within 2 minutes of the start time, ok.  Anything after that, just don’t come.  You disturb the flow of the conversation and distract everyone.  ESPECIALLY on conference calls…”DING!” Trish has now entered the call.

When I worked at PwC, I had a good policy that if I attended a meeting and I was clearly not needed, I’d discretely get up and leave.  After making it known to colleagues not to invite me if I wasn’t needed, I had fewer meetings to attend.  The ones I attended, I was able to weigh in and add my ideas.  The rest….well, somehow the company still ran without me in them.  It all worked out.

What are your tactics for managing through the meeting madness?  Share them in the comments.

Anagnorisis & Peripeteia: What In the World Did I Sign Up For?

I stumbled upon a TEDx talk by Mike Rowe where he told a story of how he had to castrate lambs as part of his Dirty Jobs television series.  While he makes no preparation for the jobs he agrees to take on, in this instance, he said he had to do a bit of research to determine how this would work.  He learned that castration is done (typically and according to the Humane Society) using a rubber band.  It apparently takes about a week for them to drop off.  What they didn’t tell him is that it is an excruciating process for the lamb and that it is a week of pain.  I recommend watching his talk to learn what he had to do instead…

At any rate, the point of his talk turned into a discussion of anagnorisis and peripeteia.  Anagnorisis is the transition from ignorance to knowledge and peripeteia is a sudden turn of events where you often realize that everything you thought was right is suddenly reversed.  It was about learning what you’ve gotten wrong in your perception about work, how to recognize this and then change.

 

Food For Thought

What are the misconceptions of work that we all have that we continue to perpetuate based on our own ignorance?  Is it the idea that following our passion is the only way to go?  We all think we want that.  What if our passion doesn’t pay?  What if we are so ignorant in our current state of following the herd or even a bad leader that we are completely missing out on anagnorisis?  What if ALL the constructs of business and HR and technology are getting it wrong and we’re all just following along?

It’s a lot to think about and I don’t claim to have all the right answers.  What I DO know for sure is that if we stop questioning the status quo, we deserve what we get.  The only way to make progress~ real progress~ is to question what other people believe as truth.

  • We have to do what is necessary in order not to become complacent
  • We have to stop relying on organization or bosses to take care of us
  • We have to step up and be accountable and operate on principle
  • We have to keep questioning and changing processes
  • We have to examine and re-examine our technology choices so that we have the right solutions in place
  • We have to push the gas instead of continuing to coast

In closing, I share a quote that Mike Rowe said.  “The jobs we hope to make and the jobs we hope to create aren’t going to stick unless they are jobs people want.”  Think about that as you examine your own work and as you think about the positions you create in your organization.

I welcome your comments.

NBA Playoff Predictions Show

Hello and welcome to the HR Happy Hour show and our latest episode: NBA Playoff Predictions.  If you’re new to the show, Steve and I typically talk about all things human resources and technology.  Once in awhile, there is a topic we are so passionate about that is not “work” related that we have to cover it.  Today, it’s the NBA playoffs.

As backstory, a few months ago we did a fun show on the Academy Awards where we previewed and made predictions about the movies and actors/ actresses that would win Oscars.  It was fun because I had viewed almost all the movies and Steve had only seen one.  He used many funny criteria to make his predictions.  You can check out the Oscar episode here.

This leads us to today where I will be making NBA playoff predictions.  Steve is our resident NBA expert, so he definitely has the advantage over me.  I am a huge sports fan, however, I never watch basketball so my predictions were made based on some shaky criteria.  Things like foods the city is known for or if the player was ever married to a Kardashian definitely come into play!

Tune in to the show and see if your predictions align more with Steve or with me, then be sure to let me know in the comments!

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio

Not Haunted

It’s been a whirlwind of a week as I am in New Orleans for the first time.  I must admit, that it is surprisingly “homey” for me as it is very similar to St. Louis in terms of history, French background, good food, and Mardi Gras.  I made time to stroll the streets of the French Quarter when I arrived and was struck by the architecture, sounds, and mostly good smells of the experience.  Keep in mind that I’m here at a time post-Mardi Gras so the party atmosphere is greatly reduced.
As I walked up and down cobblestone streets, ducking in and out of small shops hawking everything from antiques to voodoo dolls, I noticed a sign hanging for an apartment for lease.
20150413_134248~2
As you can see, one of the main pieces of information given to potential leasees and passersby is the fact (or maybe just hopeful claim) that the place is “Not Haunted”.  Not haunted?  Really?  I never knew that was a selling point.  That aside, what do you think about using a tactic like this in the work you do?  Personally, I am not a fan of focusing on the negative, especially in employee communications. Can you imagine how this could play out in the workplace?
  • Dear employees, your 2016 benefits will NOT COVER X, Y, nor Z.
  • Dear employees, as your employer we will NOT offer paternity leave until you have been employed here 2 years.
  • Dear employees, DO NOT use your computer for social media interactions during business actions because you might say something we don’t like.
  • Dear employees, the company will NOT OFFER any benefit plan cost reductions.
How could you change this by rewording?
  • Dear employees, we are excited to share your 2016 benefit plan options and are now covering several new benefits such as X, Y and Z.
  • Dear employees, we know that spending time with a new baby is an important part of a baby’s development and bonding.  As such, we will now offer paternity leave for any employee who has completed 2 years of service.
  • Dear employees, we know that as social media outlets have grown in recent years, many of you use them as part of your daily interactions.  We expect you to use good judgement and realize you represent XYZ company at all times.
  • Dear employees, we are excited to tell you that for plan year 2016, any employee who enrolls in a fitness program at a certified gym will now be offered a $300 discount on healthcare premiums for the plan year.
Now, those may not be the best policies, however, purely from a communication standpoint, it is a much more positive spin on issues that could arise.  In my HR career I have seen far too many companies use the tactics in the first examples as they tell employees how NOT to behave, what NOT to wear, etc.  I would strongly recommend a handbook policy revamp if yours resemble the first examples. I guess the alternative is to just tell your employees that the company is “Not Haunted” and go from there.  Good luck!