A recent study of 15,000 leaders from 300+ organizations across eighteen countries by Development Dimensions International revealed that the conversational skill that has the highest impact on overall performance was empathy. Empathy however is in decline according to Richard Wellins, one of the authors of DDI’s report. He pointed to a University of Michigan study of college students which showed a 34-48% decline in empathy over an eight year period.
One reason proposed for this decline is our mobile world. People are increasingly engaging with people in such brief moments of time that the empathic skill is seldom practiced. In her book, “Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World”, child psychologist, Michele Borba concurs. She suggests that as a result of technology, “Self-promotion, personal branding, and self-interest at the exclusion of others’ feelings, needs and concerns is permeating our culture and slowly eroding our children’s character.”
The DDI report also points out that managers spend more time managing than interacting thus limiting their ability to maintain and hone their empathic skills. According to their study, only 40% of frontline leaders tested either proficient or strong on empathy.
Why is empathy such a valued trait? For starters customers want to be heard and empathizing with your customers’ needs will help sellers determine what they want. Additionally empathy helps businesses understand cultural differences when operating in diverse global markets. In many companies collaboration is essential for success and empathy helps to not only foster relationships but also influences our power of persuasion.
The importance of empathy is further confirmed in a study out of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. A three year study of business leaders in the U.S. and other countries identified five attributes that executives must have to succeed in today’s global economy. Of the five, adaptability, cultural competence, 360-degree thinking, intellectual curiosity and empathy, empathy rated highest.
DDI’s study showed that in terms of relation to job performance, empathy had the greatest impact on engaging with employees, coaching them and their overall performance. Ray Krznaric, the author of Empathy: Why It Matters and How to Get It explains, “Empathy in the modern workplace is not just about being able to see things from another perspective. It’s the cornerstone of teamwork, good innovative design, and smart leadership. It’s about helping others feel heard and understood.”
So if you are reading this post right now on your phone and ignoring the person speaking with you, set it down, look into the eyes of your friend/colleague and show them they matter!
The labor force participation rate for women grew greatly between 1975 and 2000 to a point where 59.9% of women 16 and older were participating. During the ten years that followed, the rate fell by 1.3% to 58.6% in 2010. Not a substantial drop but in the five years that followed, the rate had dropped an additional 1.9% to 56.7% in 2015. Why are U.S. women leaving the workforce?
One obvious reason participation rates are declining is the increasing amount of baby boomers leaving the workforce. Their departure however does not explain the whole decline. Many women are leaving due to an inability to balance their work life with their home life. A 2014 poll of nonworking adults showed that 61% of women aged 25 to 54 were not working due to family responsibilities while only 37% of men provided the same answer. For many women in the U.S., 12 weeks of maternity leave is not long enough and the rising costs of child care increase the attractiveness of quitting work life and transitioning to home life.
While numbers continue to decline in the U.S., they continue to increase in most European countries including Japan and Canada. One reason is that family policies in the U.S. are not as friendly as in some European countries. Yes, twelve weeks of maternity leave may sound lengthy but England, for example, provides maternity leave for up to one year and in many cases it is fully paid. They also offer protection for part-time workers. According to a study by Francine Blau and Lawrence Kuhn of Cornell, if the United States had the same policies in place for mothers provided by European countries, the labor force participation rate would have been seven percentage points higher by 2010. Though the European policies have their pros they have their cons as well. These policies which support working mothers also burden their economies. Between 20 to 40 percent of jobs in the Eurozone held by women are part time and a study by Blau and Kuhn found that women in Europe were half as likely as men to be managers while in the U.S. men and women were equally likely.
Many women who wish to return to the workforce are willing provided that their family life is not too disrupted in the form of relocation, long commutes or working irregular hours. This applies only to women with families. Women without children, like men, are more inclined to accept these inconveniences.
Many women are taking time off of work to raise their children but seek to return to the workforce once their children enter school. Their primary concern is of course how hirable they are after spending significant time away from the workforce. A woman with multiple children could conceivably be a non-working parent for seven years or more. Studies have shown that biases are indeed exercised towards individuals who have been unemployed for lengthy periods of time. So in this instance moms may be ultimately punished for having a family.
And yet one poll found that non-working women are not nearly as desperate to return to work as non-working men. In many instances, their lives improve in key categories whereas a man’s lifestyle tends to suffer during periods of unemployment.
Women want to succeed and be viewed as equals to men in the workplace and yet for mothers the best way to achieve this equality is to perhaps not pursue the path of motherhood at all. They have a choice; a career or being the world’s greatest mom, and the statistics above might suggest praise from their child is more valuable than praise from their boss.
Each year as many as 360,000 military men and women join the civilian workforce. Programs such as the Veteran Jobs Mission and the White House Joining Forces have helped reduce high unemployment numbers for veterans in recent years, however former military personnel still face several challenges when trying to find civilian work.
A stigma of mental illness surrounds many veterans today with the public grossly overestimating the number of those affected by issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, employers struggle with how to incorporate military skills into civilian jobs. Lastly, the military environment is culturally different than the civilian environment. Job candidates are encouraged on their resumes and in interviews to focus on individual achievements, however the military mentality focuses on teamwork and group achievements. Veterans, according to Melissa Stirling, director of military, campus and youth programs at Hilton Worldwide, are very humble and “not good at singing their own praises.”
Veterans offer numerous benefits! Below are but a few:
· They have many of the necessary skills required to fill talent shortages.
· They possess a strong work ethic.
· They have problem solving skills.
· They are disciplined.
· They are safety conscious.
· They are detail oriented.
· They are team players.
The U.S. Department of Labor provides a veterans hiring tool kit with tips on how to hire and retain veterans.
· Create a veterans hiring program and clearly outline your strategy and goals.
· Create a workplace accommodating to veterans by better understanding their culture and experience.
· Actively reach out to veterans and military spouses.
· Partner with groups that can help you locate capable veterans.
· Understand what you are permitted and not permitted to ask during an interview.
· Develop a mentorship program with a veteran as the mentor.
· Show appreciation for veterans’ service on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
· Explain their training and the organizational chart.
According to a survey by Futurestep, eighty percent of organizations lack veterans recruiting programs despite the overall success in employing them. Organizations complaining that college graduates aren’t taught the necessary skills to compete in the workforce are neglecting a gold mine filled with candidates possessing ample and applicable skills. Following the tips above will help better acquaint employers with the challenges a very skilled segment of the workforce face, but also how to incorporate them into their organizations and take advantage of their skills.
Earlier this year I wrote about the coming robot storm and the studies that suggest many jobs now held by humans will soon be executed by robots. Yesterday the Guardian published an article by Stephen Hawking who was commenting on, among other things, growing income inequality. He remarked, “The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.”
What exactly is AI and how does it differ from basic automation such as a robot working an assembly line? AI stands for Artificial Intelligence and though those words may inspire grandiose images of androids such as Star Trek’s Data, the applications for it are far less advanced but also more widespread. Automation is hardware or software that is programmed to automatically complete a task based on external stimuli. For example, a sprinkler system that automatically operates when smoke is detected or car headlights that turn on automatically. AI however not only responds to the stimuli but learns from it to make better decisions for you in the future.
Here are a few examples of AI you perhaps have not noticed.
Autonomous cars – These are perhaps the most recognizable uses of artificial intelligence today. Soon not only will our cars drive themselves by adapting to the environment around them but so too will our cabs, busses and commercial trucks.
Netflix, Hulu, Spotify – These sites don’t just allow you to watch movies or listen to music, their software algorithms makes suggestions based on your past viewing/listening choices. Think of automation as a record player changing the record, but AI will play the songs you most likely want to hear.
Fraud detection software – These programs understand your buying habits and can alert you of irregular purchases.
News writing – News outlets such as the AP use AI to write very basic news stories such as sports recaps or financial summaries.
The examples demonstrate a few ways that AI can improve our lives but also a few ways it can steal jobs, some of which may be taken sooner than later. Autonomous trucks for example may save the trucking industry millions but it will also put drivers out of jobs. The same is true for cab drivers. These aren’t the only jobs in imminent danger. According to a study on AI by McKinsey Global Institute, 64% of data collecting jobs and 69% of data processing jobs are ready for automation takeover.
The good news for most industries is that wide adoption of these changes might still be decades away but they are certainly coming. According to McKinsey’s Michael Chui, “There’s time for us to adapt. We might start to think about, can AI save the economy by increasing productivity?”
The belief has always been that new technologies create jobs, but it doesn’t create new jobs for those whose jobs have been stolen. The individual who loses his job driving a truck can’t immediately be shifted to a job writing software for that truck. That opportunity is made available to a programmer in a different industry. So yes, perhaps AI can increase productivity and give people more free time or it will take jobs from thousands and give those people a whole lot of free time!
Millennials, those born between 1980 and 1996, make up a majority of the workforce and by 2020 will comprise nearly half of all workers. Millennials, as with previous generations before them, have been labeled as job hoppers. Perhaps job hopping is a symptom of youth or perhaps millennials truly are different from previous generations. Either way, understanding the job issues millennials must contend with and their motivations will help you better retain them as employees.
According to Gallup, these are the five most important issues millennials consider when applying for a new job:
· Opportunities to learn and grow
· Quality of manager
· Quality of management
· Interest in type of work
· Opportunities for advancement
Below are a few statistics that paint a better picture of the millennial workforce climate.
· Sixty-three percent of millennials have a bachelors degree.
· Forty-eight percent of them work in jobs that don’t require a four year degree.
· 6 in 10 millennials are open to different job opportunities.
· 21% of millennials have switched jobs in the last year – 3x higher than non-millennials
· Non-engaged millennials are 26% more likely than engaged millennials to take a different job for a raise of 20% or less.
· Of the millennials that changed roles last year, 93% did so by changing companies.
· 59% of millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when applying for a job.
· 48% say that overall compensation is extremely important to them when seeking new opportunities.
· In their current jobs, 87% rate professional or career growth as important to them.
· Less than 50% of millennials strongly agree that they’ve had opportunities to learn and grow in the last year.
· 77% of millennials say that flexible work hours are essential to boosting their generation’s productivity.
· Fifty percent do not believe Social Security will be available when they reach retirement.
· Fifty-six percent would not work at a company that banned social media access.
· Sixty-nine percent believe office attendance is not necessary on a regular basis.
· 89% of smart phone owning millennials regularly check email outside of 9-5.
We now have a better view of the picture plaguing employers. Millennials want more growth opportunities. Millennials are working in jobs that don’t require a degree. Millennials desire more work/life balance. Millennials value social media and half feel they need to earn money now because no social security will be waiting for them when they retire.
Employers must do a better job of retaining their millennial workers by offering growth opportunities and benefits such as flexible hours that are more in tune with millennial desires. They must also continue using social media and technologies such as video interviewing to reach younger workers routinely accessing the web and their social media presences over their phones.
As mentioned, 46% of the workforce will be made up of millennials in four years and if 60% of them are open to new opportunities, you have a significant chunk of the U.S. workers who could be jumping ship. This benefits nobody in the long run. So if you are looking for a New Year’s resolution it should be to retain, retain, retain.
Many companies have employee code of conduct and work rule policies in place to ensure not only that operations go smoothly but also to ensure the interests and safety of its employees and the organization. Here are a few workplace behaviors that can often warrant disciplinary action or termination.
· Theft of company property
· Working under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol
· Fighting or threatening violence in the workplace
· Sexual harassment
· Disclosure of confidential business information
· Possession of explosives or firearms at work
These are all legitimate concerns and should receive discipline or even termination if practiced at work. What if, however, such offenses were committed outside the workplace? Many organizations, especially sports associations such as the NFL and NBA, have policies that demand proper behavior off the field/court as well.
Josh Brown, a New York Giants kicker, was recently reprimanded by his organization for admitting that he had abused his girlfriend several times in recent years. On top of that, he was unapologetic about it. The Giants benched him for one game this past week until further judgement on him can be made, a move that has been highly criticized by the media as far too lenient. Greg Hardy, a former defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys, was suspended his first four games of 2015 for a domestic dispute incident in 2014 in which he allegedly assaulted his girlfriend. Hardy has also made disparaging comments about other players and their wives on social media. In 2016, through six weeks, no team has signed him.
The NFL’s code of conduct policy extends beyond the workplace, not just to the club house, locker room or the field. Unbecoming conduct in a player’s personal life is also subject to reprimand.
According to the NFL’s code of conduct policy when prohibited conduct is committed by one of its players, the player committing the offense, and the club to which he belongs, has an obligation to report the crime. Additionally, their policy states, “Any Covered Person arrested for or charged with conduct prohibited by this policy will be required to undergo a consultation and additional counseling as directed.” It goes on to say “Examples of such Prohibited Conduct include, without limitation: any crime involving the use or threat of physical violence to a person or persons; the use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a crime; possession or distribution of a weapon in violation of state or federal law; involvement in “hate crimes” or crimes of domestic violence; theft, larceny or other property crimes; sex offenses; racketeering; money laundering; obstruction of justice; resisting arrest; fraud; and violent or threatening conduct. Additionally, Covered Persons shall not by their words or conduct suggest that criminal activity is acceptable or condoned within the NFL.”
Does your corporate policy demand that employees report other employees for criminal activity that may occur outside of work? Does your personal conduct policy state that your employees must undergo counseling for their personal offenses or that they should be suspended for a period of time or fired? Probably not. Yes, you may fire an employee for showing up to work under the influence but would you at the very least demand counseling if they received a DUI on the weekend?
The NFL, its franchises, as well as other sports franchises and the players’ sponsors are worried about image. They are worried about their brand. Conduct unbecoming not only affects team chemistry but it affects sales as well. Are your employees’ personal conduct violations affecting your company’s culture or morale and is that hurting overall performance and ultimately your organization’s brand? Are you willing to bench one of your players or at the minimum, get them the help they need? Why don’t you pretend for a moment that the TV cameras are constantly scrutinizing your every move and then decide.
What, if anything, could a hiring manager say negatively about a job candidate that was exceptionally achieving? How about a candidate exhibiting high levels of conscientiousness or sociability? Surely no objections could be made about a cooperative or accommodating candidate!
In their quest to find culturally fitting job candidates, recruiters and hiring managers often yield to the results of behavioral assessments which paint either a positive or negative picture about the candidates’ potentials. Of course specific traits are more favorable for certain roles than others. For example, a quiet, unsociable candidate may not be suited for a sales or customer service role but may be perfectly suited for a role such a programming. Some traits, however, are considered so universally positive that hiring managers may ignore the negative aspects of such traits that could manifest in their candidates after they are hired.
Achieving, for example, is a personality trait that suggests few drawbacks. High achievers are often sought after for being dedicated, ambitious, and dynamic. Yet, have you considered that an exceptionally achieving worker may also be unscrupulous, self-seeking and ruthless in their pursuit of their personal goals? A candidate who already likes to bend the rules and also exhibits the dark aspects of achieving could potentially be an organizational problem.
Candidates who are sociable/outgoing with warm, friendly demeanors may not often be turned away in favor of quiet, less sociable candidates, but every trait has a dark side. These candidates may be excessively talkative, boisterous, or even uninhibited to the point that they are disruptive and tactless.
Here are a few more outwardly positive personality characteristics and their dark alter egos.
· Confident – Arrogant, smug, patronizing
· Bold – Reckless, unprepared, brash
· Assertive – Overbearing, blunt, dominating, forceful. Combine this with confidence and boldness and you are liable to hire a Wolf of Wall Street type.
· Accommodating – Submissive, passive, pushover
· Tenacious – Obstinate, inflexible,
· Disciplined – Fussy, obsessive, dictatorial
· Decisive – Opinionated, impetuous, trigger happy
As shown above with assertive, many of these negative characteristics, when coupled with corresponding traits, may be amplified. A person with a high level of confidence and moderate levels of assertiveness and or boldness may not be an issue, however high levels of each may produce a toxic performer. My earlier post on this subject showed that parting ways with toxic employees, even if ranked in the top 1% for productivity, saved a company more in expense than what the company earned from the superstar’s production.
So, when you are looking to hire your next Jedi, be careful whether you are hiring an individual who wants to destroy the Death Star or who wants to build a Death Star. You may end up with a bold, confident Vader over a bold, confident Luke!
In business most professionals understand that employee turnover is bad while employee retention is good. Perhaps because in the corporate world success is measured in dollars gained vs. dollars lost and most know that employee turnover is a big expense. The cost of replacing entry level employees is 30-50 percent of their annual salary while mid-level employees may cost a company as much as 150 percent of their salary to replace.
Retaining employees for as long as you are able to avoid turnover costs is rational, however turnover can also be beneficial. Years ago my colleague was speaking about turnover with a gentleman who ran a call center. This manager found that turnover, after a period of time had elapsed, was beneficial because he could hire entry level call center agents at a pay rate lower than what the exiting agents had been earning. Periodic turnover allowed the call center manager to reduce costs.
One issue often associated with employee turnover is a decrease in company morale as remaining employees have to shoulder the responsibilities the departing employee left behind until the role is filled. Low employee morale of course can also be created by retaining a disruptive employee who poisons your culture and office atmosphere. The departure of such an employee could produce positive results within days. In a previous post I pointed to a study which revealed that avoiding a toxic worker, even one in the top 1% for productivity, saves a company far more than the cost savings they would receive from employing the superstar.
Turnover also provides the opportunity to inject more energy into your business. Long retained workers may lose passion for what they do. While they leave to seek greater challenges elsewhere with a renewed vigor, your company may provide a similar challenging opportunity to an incoming employee. Though you may have to train them, their energy level and spirit for the new challenges that lie ahead may spark morale and spirit in the workplace.
Turnover, especially in senior positions, may eliminate the tendency for mirror image hiring. Mirror image hiring is a hiring manager’s propensity to hire those with similar backgrounds or behavioral characteristics. According to I/O psychologist Allen Gorman, “The ‘similar-to-me’ bias could also lead to creativity stagnation and lack of innovation in organizations. This happens because as organizations continue to hire employees that have the same backgrounds and experiences as those already in the organization, employees begin to think and behave in the same fashion due to their shared experiences.”
Turnover is uncomfortable not just in terms of revenue lost and the expenses associated with finding/training a new employee but also the concern of how a new employee will fit into one’s corporate culture. Change however brings new life and enthusiasm and so turnover should be viewed as an opportunity to not only improve your company but potentially reduce expenses in the long run.
In my colleague’s March blog post, “Productivity is on life support: Blame the Millennials and the Baby Boomers,” he pointed out that the annual growth rate of productivity from year to year between 2007 and 2015 was 60% lower than the year to year growth rate between 1947 and 1973. He contended that both the older, less productive baby boomers and the easily distracted millennials were to blame for the decrease in growth rate. Indeed many articles have been written about the Millennial “Me, Me, Me” generation.
Recently the Texas department of labor established an overtime rule that allows overtime pay for more salaried workers. The biggest complaint from business leaders on this ruling is that younger employees, millennials, don’t deserve to be paid overtime for the work they should have accomplished during their regular hours. As one complainant to the department of labor suggested, “The younger workers are often off task, engaged on social media, on the internet, texting on phones and other unproductive activities.”
Here we have further suggestions that Millennials are basically…well…. lazy. Below is an alleged quote from a prominent intellectual on the state of our youth which many would agree succinctly describes today’s young workers.
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table….and tyrannize their teachers.”
Sounds exactly like today’s youth but the quote above is allegedly from a disgruntled Socrates sometime prior to his death in 399 B.C nearly 2,500 years ago. I’m not convinced Socrates did indeed say this but regardless, the quote is old and suggests that Millennials aren’t the first generation to patent laziness and disrespect.
Bruce Pfau, the head of human resources for KPMG, spent years studying the differences between the wants and needs at work of Millennials and employees in other generations. He concluded that Millennials weren’t necessarily lazy or narcissistic but rather those are traits exhibited by young people which are corrected as the individual grows older.
Going back through history we see clearly that Millennials aren’t the first generation to be criticized by the media for their self-absorbed attitude. A 1907 article in the Atlantic Monthly on why marriages are failing declared that the “…cult of individualism…” was to blame. In the 70s, acclaimed author Tom Wolf wrote an article for New York magazine called, “The ME Decade. Reports on America’s New Great Awakening.” In it he said, “…The new alchemical dream is: changing one’s personality-remaking, remodeling, elevating and polishing one’s very self…and observing, studying and doting on it. (Me!)…” The Gen-Xers took a hit from Time magazine in 1990 when they dedicated their cover story to the generation who has “trouble making decisions” and whose attention span is as short as “one zap of a TV dial.”
Truly, younger people on average are more narcissistic, however the younger workers of the ‘oos aren’t necessarily more selfish than were 90s workers, and 90’s workers aren’t more self-absorbed than those in the 70’s and 80s. Sure, the distractions from decade to decade may be different. The generation once entranced by MTV now may look down its nose at the Facebook generation and in ten years the Facebook generation may haughtily judge generation Z for its addiction to virtual reality. Regardless however of what actually distracts them, the young people of every generation had a distraction over which the upper generations judged them for being lazy and self-absorbed.
So relax America. Our Millennials will grow out of it. In fact one day they will be writing articles about how bratty and entitled the young workers at their companies are behaving.
Internapalooza, an event I had not heard of until recently, is as its name suggests, a gathering of interns. More specifically the event hosts interns interested in working for Silicon Valley companies and from what I can tell, this July 11th, Internapalooza’s fifth annual event will take over AT&T Park in San Francisco with over 8,000 interns registered to attend. The event offers interns the chance to mingle with their peers, speak with executives from dozens of top tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Paypal, Dropbox, and Microsoft and even play games. According to the schedule the free event begins at 6:00 and ends at 10:00 but that is when the Intern After Party begins and continues until 1:00 am.
A viral story about the After Party is how I first heard of Internapalooza. (I’m a forty-something who lives on the East Coast so cut me some slack.) A Microsoft recruiter sent the following email to an intern which the intern’s roommate posted online.
“HEY BAE INTERN! <3
Hi! I am Kim, a Microsoft University Recruiter. My crew is coming down from our HQ in Seattle to hang with you and the crowd of the bay area interns at Internapalooza on 7/11.
BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, we’re throwing an exclusive after party the night of the event at our San Francisco office and you’re invited! There will be hella noms, lots of dranks, the best beats and just like last year, we’re breaking out the Yammer beer pong tables!
HELL YES TO GETTING LIT ON A MONDAY NIGHT.”
Okay so several things are wrong with this letter that Microsoft confirmed originated from them. One is the cringe worthy use of slang in an attempt to sound hip! “Hey Bae”? “Hella noms”? “Lots of dranks”? Not only is the jargon embarrassing but evidently it is also misused. “Dranks” which I’m assuming is meant to refer to drinks, is actually slang for codeine cough syrup that some young people ingest to get buzzed. I’m pretty sure Microsoft won’t be passing around Robitussin at their party. Perhaps the worst thing about this letter is the ending reference to getting “Lit” on a Monday night. While looking cool may enable Microsoft to appear more attractive to millennials or the upcoming Generation Z, getting drunk is hardly the vibe they should be promoting. The letter is embarrassingly funny but not catastrophic to Microsoft’s image.
Actually the email does not stray far from the laid back vibe presented for the whole event. Following is some verbiage from Internapalooza’s website, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status-quo.” As I reflect on Microsoft’s email and the statement on Internapalooza’s website, I wonder if the wrong message is being sent to millennials in an attempt to recruit them?
For years news articles and blogs have been written about how to manage (deal with) Millennials in the work place. Millennials have been stereotyped as “entitled, lazy, narcissistic and addicted to social media.” And yet events such as Internapalooza supposedly aren’t looking for the conformist millennial but rather the “crazy misfit” who breaks the rules. Do we want millennials who will show up for work on time, focused and ready to do their jobs, or do we want to stay up late downing brews with them on a Monday night?
Do you think a responsible manager will ever exclaim over a raucous game of late night beer pong with his subordinates, “HELL YES TO SHOWING UP LATE FOR WORK ON A TUESDAY MORNING!”? The answer is “no” and that’s your answer to the type of Millennial we really want.