Wednesday, October 25

Has Anyone Seen An Engaged Employee? 

by Margery Weinstein, Training magazine

If your workforce always has an impressive store of knowledge about the last episode of "The Office," but has no idea what happened at last Thursday's staff meeting, employee engagement just may be a problem.

Staffers who trudge to work solely to pay for the rent but could care less about the new products you'll be debuting this fall do more than a shoddy job—they're a detriment to the health of your company, say Julie Kurd and Kate Zilla-Ba, practice leaders in workforce performance consulting at Boston-based Chadwick Martin Bailey, a provider of custom marketing research and analytics. Before you start panicking at the realization that you may have a problem, these experts have some tips for solving it.

One thing you can do is "help employees internalize the brand," says Zilla-Ba. That means helping employees at each level of the company figure out what the brand means to them. "So it ends up being behavioral-based," Zilla-Ba explains. "What makes them more engaged are the things they're doing that express that engagement." At auto club AAA, for example, which has "helpfulness" as a key part of its brand, employees are expected to be helpful not just to customers, but to co-workers inside the office as well.

Kurd and Zilla-Ba look at engagement from a systemic rather than individual perspective, advising that you look across your organization to examine where breakdowns in brand internalization have occurred. "How is the executive team living the brand through the certain behaviors we're focusing on? How does that happen through the planning systems we have corporate-wide? How does that happen through the technology we're using?" Zilla-Ba says to ask yourself. "There are many different systems and processes that can exist through which employees are supposed to be able to do things that make the brand live."

Companies that have failed at encouraging engagement might be barking up the wrong tree, Kurd says. "A lot of engagement focuses around if you have a best friend at work or if you’re happy," but, she points out, "that stuff is not the means to the end of increased performance, so that’s not music to strategic HR’s ears." It’s when the underlying philosophy of the company becomes meaningful to them, Kurd stresses, that their particular job role becomes important to them.

But before you can communicate the brand to workers, of course, you need to understand it yourself, which means an alliance between HR and marketing. "HR needs to be a partner with the business and with the marketing world," Kurd says. At the same time, your company's top execs also need to be on board with your engagement initiative, which means pulling a chair out for yourself at their table. If you really want to come up with effective strategies for making employees care about your company, HR needs to be perceived by the top brass as having a broad mission. "HR is no longer a compliance organization," Kurd says. "It has that function," Zilla-Ba adds, "but it has to go beyond that to be strategic."

Tuesday, October 17

Crisis? What Retirement Crisis? 

Take a look at this contrarian angle from Joseph Kornik, editor in chief of TRAINING magazine. I especially like the Jack Welch quote - I've highlighted in red, because it's directly relevant to the new hire/new manager training program I've been absorbed in creating called STARS from the Start(tm).

From Training magazine, September 01, 2006

The book titles are enough to scare the succession planning right out of you—The 2010 Meltdown: Solving the Impending Job Crisis, Workforce Crisis: How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent and Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of An Aging Workforce. Believe me, magazine editors love hyperbole as much as the next guy, but these titles seem to be more B-movie than business book. (Can't you just see the movie poster now? Baby-boomer zombies wreaking havoc on those all-too-human CEOs. 'We won't be stopped until we bring ALL of corporate America to its knees!')

Oddly enough, whenever I mention retiring baby boomers to trainers the image I get is a little different. Usually, it's an indifferent trainer shrugging his shoulders. Trainers seem to think it's no big deal, and they're the ones that are responsible for keeping the intellectual capital of their companies intact over the next few years. Hey, hasn't anyone been to Barnes & Noble lately?

Even Jack Welch would hear nothing of a pending crisis when I asked him about it a few months back. Rather, he saw it as more of an opportunity. 'Companies shouldn't be afraid to take risks by promoting tomorrow's leaders into these roles today. It's wonderful to have an organization that is dynamic and getting fresh blood into management positions. Will they be ready? Maybe they won't all be trained perfectly, but they'll be able to grow into their jobs if you give them the right support systems.'

This month's cover story—"Outta Here: Are You Ready for the Baby Boomers to Retire?"—examines the situation inside and out, offering plenty of sound strategies, best practices and tips for transitioning your workforce. If you're not a procrastinator, you've probably already begun to plan for the inevitable shift coming. But in the end, I don't think it'll be as bad as some are making it out to be. Why? It all has to do with the baby boomers (doesn't it always?). They've been defining the American experience since the hula hoop. Why should retirement be any different? Boomers are an industrious bunch, and they'll find creative ways to ease their way into retirement. They'll work part-time, they'll consult, or they'll mentor younger workers a few days a week. They have talent, knowledge and experience, and they're more than willing to help pass it on. Many companies, in fact, are already making it easier by starting what they're calling "transition programs" for workers nearing retirement.

So there it is—no meltdown, no crisis. But I'd sure like to see that movie.

Joseph Kornik

Wednesday, October 11

Ten Tips for Surviving and Thriving in the Workplace 

Ten Tips for Surviving and Thriving in the Workplace
by Michele Marrinan Monster.com

We can all survive and thrive in the office. Here’s how.

Forget About Fate
Don’t leave anything in your career to chance. Put together a profile of your ideal career and employer. Andrea Kay, a career consultant and executive coach in Cincinnati, recommends including your ideal corporate structure, management styles, industry and corporate values.

Speak Up
Don’t wait for your employer to initiate discussions about job performance and expectations. "Check in regularly," Kay says. "Find out how you’re doing and if your manager's expectations are the same ones you’re working on."

Foster Relationships
The better you get along with coworkers, the easier your job will be and the better you’ll perform. "It’s much easier to work with folks if you get along," says Lisa O’Neill, a public relations account executive at Trinity Communications in Boston. Make an effort to put aside personal differences for the sake of your working relationship.

Give Credit
Give coworkers and subordinates credit for their contributions. Dick Lyles, author of Winning Ways: Four Secrets for Getting Great Results by Working Well with People, says that competition with coworkers can be fatal. “Embrace this attitude: I win only if you win, and we all win together,” he says.

Keep Learning
A static knowledge base quickly becomes outdated and worthless. “Be sure you’re in a job where you’re going to keep learning,” says Anne Pauker, president of The Pauker Consulting Group, a human resources consultancy in Princeton Junction, New Jersey.

Find a Mentor
There’s no substitute for the wisdom of others. Pair up with someone who has the skills and insight you need. “That’s not necessarily an all-perfect or influential person,” says Pauker. “It’s someone who can help you learn what you need to get ahead.”

Balance Yourself
Living and breathing your job is a sure-fire path to failure. You'll burn out quickly if you don’t maintain a healthy balance between your work and personal lives. Be clear with your boss about your personal obligations, and don't let work take precedence over them.

Have Fun
Organize after-hours activities for you and your coworkers. The chance to interact on a nonwork level can strengthen your working relationships. Some companies have social committees that plan events each quarter.

Control the Damage
Most of us will fail at some point in our careers. Some of us will get fired. Don’t despair, says Kay. Be honest about your share of the blame and take away a few lessons. “Create a list of lessons that you may have learned from the situation,” she says.

Pursue Your Passion
If you love what you do, you’ll do it well. “If I don’t feel passionate about something, I don’t have time to do it,” says Pauker. “That’s the filter I use.” Be just as selective; choose a career and a job that you know will be personally fulfilling.

Tuesday, October 10

Global HR Executives Focusing on Retention; Looking for Workers With Specific Skills 

Global HR Executives Focusing on Retention; Looking for Workers With Specific Skills

Oct. 10, 2006 -- HR executives from around the globe say one of the concerns that keeps them up at night is the need for workers with specific talents and skill sets and the fact that younger workers are more difficult to retain in the long term.

In a midday panel discussion on Monday with high-level HR executives from the United States, South Africa and Hong Kong, at the HR Leaders Summit in Palm Desert, Calif., the discussion revolved around the employee value proposition and the talent war across the globe, among other topics.
Panelists agree that the talent pool is changing. Workers are showing less loyalty to the company, said Charlotte Mokoena, former group executive, human resources for Telkom SA Limited in Victoria, South Africa.

Telkom hopes to increase their current 50% share in the mobile communications market, among other goals, and Mokoena cites an increasing trend among, younger workers to “job hop.”

“They are not loyal to you, they are loyal to themselves,” she said. “But they are highly motivated, highly intelligent, and unfortunately, highly mobile.” As such, her company is in the process of trying to figure out what will make these sought-after employees stay.

One of the plans Telkom is implementing is tracking the “emotional drivers” among workers. The company surveys employees twice a year and asks questions such as: “Are you happy with your development?” “Are you happy with what you’re doing in your job?” “Are you happy with your career path?”

Another universal theme among the global HR executives is the focus on ensuring that managers are focused on retention and motivation to keep turnover rates low.

Donna McNamara, recently retired vice president, global education and training, Colgate-Palmolive Co., said one of the ways the company plans to ensure future talent is by “trying to influence a culture of respect and making sure it’s integrated throughout all HR systems. Managing with respect is very important,” she said.

Across the globe in Hong Kong, Horace Ho, senior vice president, human resources, Johnson Electric Group, is trying to deal with what he says is the current lack of talent management in Asia.

“We’re based in Hong Kong,” he said. “Unlike other multinationals, our leadership and HR strategy doesn’t come from North America. So with the current environment in Asia, we have to attract talent by building our credibility.” According to Ho, 30% to 40% turnover is not uncommon in many parts of Asia. And he said he worries about how to explain to the CEO why the people are leaving.

Friday, October 6

New Surveys Show That Big Business Has a P.R. Problem 

From the New York Times, December 2005. Be afraid. Be very afraid...

New Surveys Show That Big Business Has a P.R. Problem

More than ever, Americans do not trust business or the people who run it.

Pollsters, researchers, even many corporate chiefs themselves say that business is under attack by a majority of the public, which believes that executives are bent on destroying the environment, cooking the books and lining their own pockets.

Even as corporate scandals like Tyco's recede, fresh complaints - over high energy costs and soaring oil company profits, planned layoffs in the auto industry, bribery and conflicts of interest in military contracting - fuel the antipathy.

And every report of high-dollar executive compensation - Philip Purcell's $113 million payout to leave Morgan Stanley, James M. Kilts's $165 million for selling Gillette to Procter & Gamble - strengthens the feeling that business funnels money from the workers to the elite. The trial of Enron's former top executives, which begins in January, is likely to renew anger about the scandal that touched off this wave of distrust.
"There is a sense that business is a zero-sum game, that if companies are making a lot of money, it must be coming out of someone else's pocket," said Michael Hammer, a management consultant who writes frequently about business.

Executives ruefully agree with his assessment. "This is a challenging time for big corporations," said John D. Hofmeister, who runs the United States operations of Shell Oil Company. The modern feeling, he said, is "big is bad."

It is not clear whether such views will bring significant change, but it is clear that the disaffection is spreading. In a Roper poll conducted from July 28 to Aug. 10, 72 percent of respondents felt that wrongdoing was widespread in industry; last year, 66 percent felt that was the case.

Only 2 percent checked off "very trustworthy" to describe the chief executives of very large companies, down from 3 percent last year. And only 9 percent said they had full trust in financial services institutions, down from 14 percent last year.

Nor do Americans expect much help from Washington: 90 percent of respondents to a Harris poll, conducted Nov. 8-13, said big companies had too much influence on government, up from 83 percent last year.
Business is certainly not the only big institution viewed with suspicion. Recent surveys by the Pew Research Center show that a growing number of Americans believe that government is inefficient. And 68 percent of the respondents to the Harris Poll said the news media were too powerful, while 43 percent said unions were too strong. About 35 percent felt even religious leaders had too much power.

But animosity toward executives as a class, not just the institutions they work for, seems to be rising to a new level. "Society has come to believe that the term 'crooked C.E.O.' is redundant," said Robert S. Miller, the chief executive of Delphi, the bankrupt auto parts company.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, some politicians are picking up the antibusiness scent. Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, recently introduced a bill to require shareholders to approve executive compensation and force companies to take back bonuses that were based on faulty accounting.

"Income distribution in America is seriously out of whack, and there is zero correlation between C.E.O. pay and C.E.O. performance," Mr. Frank said. He conceded that the bill's chances of passage were "bleak" but said he hoped it would "become a factor in the 2006 elections."

Even Republicans have joined the attacks. At a recent Congressional hearing, senators from both parties demanded that oil executives defend their record profits. And now some Senate Democrats, unsatisfied with what they heard, are clamoring for the oil executives to be called back again, this time to testify under oath.
Many executives, while acknowledging the public antipathy, adamantly dispute the criticism. They note that some companies were more helpful than government in the wake of the tsunami in Asia and the Gulf Coast hurricanes. They argue that they are disclosing more financial information, and have cracked down on unethical behavior.

James R. Houghton, chairman of Corning, said he felt little animosity in Corning, N.Y., even though his company had cut thousands of jobs there. "Maybe I'm in an ivory tower, but I think society realizes that 98 percent of businesses are doing the right thing," he said. "The press doesn't write that, because it's the world's most boring story, and because business does a really lousy job of promoting itself."

Business is trying to rectify that. Commercials for Wal-Mart show its employees lauding their benefits and career opportunities. The American Chemistry Council has earmarked $20 million for an education campaign to stress the role of chemicals in daily life. The Business Roundtable has stepped up its corporate ethics programs and just introduced what it calls Sea Change, a program to get big companies to pursue environmentally sound growth.

"We don't think it's productive to just say society is wrong," said John J. Castellani, the roundtable's president.

"A lot of pain and suffering has come from business's wrongdoing, and we must again foster trust."
Business has faced similar problems in the past. Theodore Roosevelt was following popular sentiment when he sought to break up cartels at the start of the 20th century. College students in the 1960's ran Dow Chemical's recruiters off campus, furious that Dow's napalm was used on villages in Vietnam. The term "military-industrial complex" - rarely used in a flattering way - has been around for 44 years.

But these days, even institutional investors no longer give corporate executives the benefit of the doubt. "We're operating in a caveat emptor world, one in which you have to check everything that management tells you against what else you know and hear," said William Riegel, a managing director of TIAA-CREF, the huge teachers' pension fund that commissioned the Roper poll.

But why the rampant distrust?

Some executives concede that business brought the opprobrium on itself. "Today's companies are run not by entrepreneurs, but by traders who are increasingly preoccupied with short-term gain and profits," said Henry B. Schacht, the former chief executive of both Cummins and Lucent Technologies. (Mr. Schacht serves on the board of The New York Times Company.)

But others say that middle-class Americans are seeking villains to blame for their losses in the stock market implosion of 2000, and for the high oil and gas prices today.

"John Q. Public was burned, and asked, 'Where were the directors and external auditors?' " said Dennis M. Nally, chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers. "The trust equation was broken."
Others point out that the gap between the income of the top 10 to 20 percent and the rest of the work force keeps widening.

"There's always been a tendency to dislike the big guy, and it has been intensified by concerns over global competition and the widening gap between the winners and the losers," said Henry M. Paulson Jr., chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group.

Technology has given the angry voices a more public outlet. The blogosphere is rife with postings castigating Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart and other big companies, citing everything from unfair labor practices to dangerous smokestack emissions.

Hollywood has long recognized that portraying sleazy business executives as bad guys is a crowd-pleaser. Michael Douglas won an Oscar in 1987 for his portrayal of a consummate greedy trader, Gordon Gekko, in the film "Wall Street."

Today, though, unscrupulous businesspeople are practically stock characters in movies. "You have to be so politically correct that the only guy you can safely portray as a villain is a business guy in a suit," Dr. Hammer, the consultant, said.

That is not entirely true, of course. Terrorists and crooked athletes show up in movies, too. And top actors and athletes have been plagued with their own scandals regarding substance abuse, behavioral tantrums and swollen paychecks.

But, experts say, when actors and athletes stop delivering huge box-office returns or home runs, their paychecks plummet. In contrast, "there is a real perception that we continue to pay for failure," Mr. Castellani of the Business Roundtable said.

Still, many executives insist that society must share blame for the business practices it so despises. They say that people who blame McDonald's for their obesity still order the large fries, and that those who complain about low wages still insist on low prices.

"I don't see investors refusing to buy because they think the chief executive is overpaid, and I don't see union members boycotting nonunion stores that sell attractively priced foreign goods," Anthony M. Maramarco, a managing director at Babson Capital Management, said.

That certainly is Wal-Mart's take on it. Mona Williams, vice president for communications, said Wal-Mart's own surveys, done at the behest of board members worried about the company's image, indicated that only 8 percent of consumers refused to shop at Wal-Mart because they were opposed to its practices.

"The people who criticize us most do not have a Wal-Mart in their town, and can afford to shop elsewhere anyway," Ms. Williams said.

Even so, businesses like Wal-Mart are actively trying to regain public trust. Wal-Mart has set up an office of diversity, has added environmental safeguards to many stores and has fired managers who abused workers.
Mr. Miller, the Delphi chief, cut his own salary to $1 this year and is not partaking in bonuses allocated for the top executives when Delphi emerges from bankruptcy. The reason, he said, is so that he "could look Delphi's hard-working people in the eye when I tell them that they have to tighten their belts."

And many companies are disclosing even more financial information than tightened laws require. Eastman Kodak erroneously listed an $11 million severance cost in its second-quarter earnings. No money had changed hands, so Kodak added the amount back into its third-quarter earnings, a move its accountants remain certain was permissible under existing rules.

Kodak restated earnings for both quarters anyway. When asked why, Robert H. Brust, Kodak's chief financial officer, cited a "heightened sensitivity" about financial reporting and a desire to adhere to the "spirit" of regulatory change.

Experts say such moves may help, but doubt that they will pull people back into industry's corner.
"Executives seem to believe that they will be O.K. as long as people want the products they make," said Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School. "Well, Big Tobacco used to say, 'We're satisfying demand,' too. Look how far it got them."

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