Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Culture: Here’s Why It Matters Now More Than Ever Before

 “I wanted to let you know that I got the job offer,” she said excitedly.
She had two interviews last week — one with a noted brand and the other with a fast growing start-up. One firm really wants her but they are on a hiring freeze until Q1. This is a dilemma that a lot of folks would kill for in this climate.
As we discussed how she was going to approach the offer vs. the “non-offer,” I was amazed at how she was approaching this decision. She talked about the pros and con’s of each company, her career growth and potential development at each, the known brand vs. a start-up, etc. All this came from a Gen Xer.
No alignment with her personal brand
My other discussion this week was from a Gen. Y/Millennial who had a job interview with another known brand. She knew the brand was not quite for her, but really wanted to find more out about the role.
She mentioned that the company’s lobby was a mess and not inviting at all. One of the recruiters she met with was chilly, to say the least, and according to her, bordered on being rude. This recruiter was asked a question, and as she tried to answer, was talking over her throughout.
When she walked out she knew that even if offered the role, she would not accept. In both cases, there was no brand alignment with her career. In all our discussions, the issue of salary did not come up.
You are the one being interviewed
If you are an organization seeking talent, the pendulum has swung away from you — and you are no longer in charge.
That’s right — you no longer have the upper hand with talent. You’re the one that is being interviewed. If that person sitting across the desk from you is top talent, you and your organization are the ones that are under the microscope.
No longer is top talent sitting, waiting, and hoping for YOUR call. They can have their choice of jobs.
Not only that, but just because you are a known brand (and that alone may add a few points to the equation), it’s still the top candidates that are creating the formula when making the hiring decision.
Not so long ago, the toughest part of job hunting was getting a decent offer. Today, people with talent get a flood of offers.
Their challenge is sorting through all of the choices to find the one that’s best for them. The organization’s challenge is learning a new organizational skill: How can I compete?
No, I have decided not to accept your offer
There are many reasons why a job candidate might have to turn down a job offer: the money, the work itself, or the people and culture at the company. In all these situations, money did not come up in the discussion. Work, people, and culture was paramount — and that is why the pendulum has swung.
How an organization approaches this conundrum will determine how successful they are in getting the talent they need. Innovation will be determined by the level of talent and how inspired it is.
The days of being the big shot in your industry, and having that mindset that everyone wants to work for you, are coming to an end. There was a line in the movie The Devil Wears Prada, where the magazine editor character Miranda Priestly tells her assistant Emily that “everyone wants this.” She was shocked when Emily said that, no, she did not want it or want to be a part of it.
Culture matters now more than ever
Culture is the elephant in the room. I remember reading a quote a while back that said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” a remark attributed to the late management guru Peter Drucker. No matter how far reaching a leader’s vision or how brilliant the strategy, neither will be realized if not supported by an organization’s culture.
Culture is the sum total of what people within your company believe and value about your organization. But are you in a company that is characterized by distrust, fear, and bitterness?
Recruiting for a company like that is a lot different than recruiting for an organization that is characterized by creativity, innovation, and a sense of responsibility for the entire organization.
Culture should be a discussion within the executive suite, because while strategy is the direction to the destination, culture is in the driver’s seat.
The work WILL matter
Is your company looking to grow their people and let them spread their wings? One of the people that I mentioned earlier said while she has a great job, she has been pigeon-holed doing the same thing day-in and day-out. There are no opportunities to grow. Career development is basically non-existent.
To a new generation of workers, work DOES matter. Work will have to be interesting and challenging like it is  at Google where we have all heard about the company granting time for employees to pursue their dreams while at work.
While this might not work at every company, you must encourage the whole person to come to work — because it the end, it is no longer about you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The “New” Engaged Leader: Why Everyone You Touch Really Does Matter

” ‘Where did you get that coffee?’ I got it from Steve, the coffee guy downstairs, I said. ‘Steve, the coffee guy?, you even know his name?’ he asked incredulously.”

“It’s simple, I said. I get coffee from him every day; why would I not know his name? He knows my name and even how I like my coffee. He is my first touch point in the morning.

‘When I was in college,’ he said, ‘I ate breakfast at the same restaurant every day and was waited on by the same waitress every day, and to this day, I do not know her name or who she is for that matter.’

“So you want to be an executive one day and you do not connect with people? I asked him. I could see the wheels turning in his head as I walked away.”

Everyday leadership

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

“You are a great model of work-life balance, Ron. Thanks for showing me.”

Last week I linked to an article titled Why the Work-Life Balance is Now More Important Than Ever. It was a UK-based article on work-life balance and it cited five (5)  countries and how each of them approaches it. The comment was based on that article.

The identity of the commenter brought a huge smile to my face. It was from one of the most inspiring people that I have ever worked with during my career.

Her name is Maggie Mistal, and she is now described as one of the nation’s best known career coaches by CNN, where she normally appears. We worked together at Martha Stewart Living, where she developed our training, coaching, and career development programs. She later went out on her own and built a media career around it. She can now be heard every Friday on Sirius XM Radio.

My first intro to work-life balance

My first exposure to work-life balance was during my tenure at IBM. I had never given it much thought, but I did know that once I left work, I LEFT work. Everyone knew that my phone was turned off as I left the building.

When my daughter was in primary school, I would pick her up from day care on Friday. For probably five weeks straight, I was always late. The last Friday, the manager of the facility told me that I was only getting one more chance and if I was late again, I would have to find another facility.

I had basically worn out my welcome by being the last one to pick up a child every Friday.

My daughter was the only one in the room when the director told me this, and she started to cry and said she liked her school and did not want to go to another school.

My problem was that I worked in New York City, lived in the suburbs of New Jersey, and had to catch the subway to get to the bus which took me to my drop-off point in New Jersey. From there I got into my car and drove about 15 minutes to the school. On a good day, this would not be a problem, but Fridays being Friday, it did not work.

Problem stated, problem solved

On the Monday following this discussion with my daughter’s day care director, I spoke to my manager and explained the situation I was in. I will never forget his thoughtful reply. He asked me the question, “what do you need to make this work?”

What I needed was to just leave on time, which for me would be by 3 pm. So, my new deal was that on Fridays, I would leave at 3 and get to my daughter’s day care no later than 5 pm.

That’s how it went. Problem solved. There was no company policy amended, no major pronouncements. My manager handled the situation by asking me for the solution.

The lesson I learned from that episode has carried forward with me to this day.

Forget about one size fits all

When anyone that worked for me ever had an issue, I would let them settle it. There is no one-size fits-all solution for work-life balance. In some cases, amendments can be made to policies to adjust to a core group of employees.

At one company where I worked, we noticed that we were losing a lot of first time moms. They would come back at the required time but could not make the commitment to the full-time work week.

At that time, we did not have (or believe) in tele-commuting or working from home. But once we realized that some of our top talent was walking away, we knew we had to make some changes. Not only had that, but the demographic of our workforce meant that this was just the tip of the iceberg if we did not solve the problem.

There can be a business case

So, we changed the policy to have them make adjustments on the days they were in the office. This was based on each individual working with their manager to come up with a solution.

In the end, it was a win-win for everyone involved.

My day care problem was my problem; it was not a company problem. The new mom situation was an organizational problem. In each situation, we approached it with the people that were directly involved and worked with them to arrive at their solution.

While a certain organizational mindset is needed for support of work-life programs, organization’s must realize that the workforce is different today.

Every time I hear of the work-life balance dilemma, I am reminded of the quote by Ralf Schneider, formerly of PwC:

“Companies flounder today because first generation leaders are working in second generation companies working on third generation problems.”

Work-life balance is a bottom line issue

Organizations will have to shift from the “one-way street” mentality of getting more out of people to investing in meeting people’s core needs so that they are pumped up and inspired to bring all of themselves to the job.

Policies must be created that will allow employees to better manage their workload, have a more balanced life, and give them some flexibility when it comes to how and when they get their work done.

Yes, policies that focused on flexibility and working remotely contribute to a more energized workplace.

Work-life balance has to be discussed in the C-suite. Your bottom line would look kindly on your organization if you do.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Best Ideas? They Can Come From Anyone – IF You’re Willing to Listen

“Don’t credit me with that success. That idea came from a janitor at the NFL Films production facility. He suggested that we take all the fumbles and mishaps and put them to music.”
That statement was from Steve Sabol, the late co-founder (with his father, Ed) of NFL Films. NFL Films was started by accident by his father from his love for home movies. Steve recently passed away from cancer, but his thoughts were captured in a documentary on how they built their organization
Have you ever seen the segment where all the fumbles and hits are compiled into a popular show of its own? As a matter of fact, it has become a brand itself within the company franchise.
And, that idea came from possibly the lowest person on the org chart.
I thought of three (3) dynamics that played out when I heard Steve Sabol’s statement about the janitor:
  • Having an organization that creates an environment where everyone brings value and feels comfortable in being heard;
  • Having employees who believe that their voices can be heard;
  • Having leadership that will acknowledge and give credit to their employees.

The big word that every organization talks about today is “innovation.” Everyone is looking, seeking searching, for that illusive next step. Everyone is asking where and the how.
Value comes in all sizes and titles