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.
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.
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.
Every organization wants superstar employees and some will even delay the hiring process weeks or even months until that perfect candidate blips on the radar. What happens though if once you find your purple squirrel, they have mange or rabies? Do you cut them lose or keep them around for their quota busting, nut gathering ability?
Economist Dylan Minor and Cornerstone OnDemand’s chief analytics officer, Michael Housman, examined nearly 60,000 workers to determine the cost of retaining toxic workers. In their study, they define “toxic” as conduct harmful to an organization’s people or property. They found that retaining toxic workers, even those residing in the top 1% for productivity, cost far more than the rewards reaped from a toxic employee’s high production.
Their study revealed that a top one percent worker could produce over $5,000 in annual cost savings however a company could avoid $12,000 in costs by not hiring a toxic worker. In short a toxic worker, even if they are super productive, is far more costly to an organization than an average, non-toxic worker. Take a look at the chart below provided in their study!
Even though a worker in only the top 25% of productivity saves a company far less than one in the top 1%, the study shows that replacing a superstar toxic worker with a less than stellar non-toxic worker, to still be the more cost effective choice.
Why are toxic workers so much more expensive? The most apparent answer is turnover. Toxic workers drive other employees away and the cost of replacing those employees is high not to mention that morale and productivity often drop until a replacement is found. Additionally toxic workers produce other toxic workers. Negativity spreads like wildfire.
Interestingly enough, toxic workers are more productive in terms of their output and one 2013 study found that unethical workers remain longer at organizations. This explains why toxic workers are so often selected and even retained for long timespans.
In summary, avoid hiring a toxic worker if you can but should you find yourself burdened with one or many, remove them despite their high production. As former GE CEO Jack Welch put it, “People are removed for having the wrong values…we don’t even talk about the numbers.”
How much work is too much work? Do workers reach a point when an excessive amount of work so fatigues them mentally and physically that their productivity takes a hit and their health declines?
The Draugiem Group conducted a study which tracked employees’ work habits. They discovered that employees that took short breaks of around fifteen minutes every hour were much more productive than those who tried to power through without stopping.
The brain operates in a high energy mode for about an hour and then in a low energy mode for fifteen to twenty minutes. For most, during these low energy periods, they are distracted and their productivity dips. By powering through this distracted period rather than taking a break and refueling, a lack of focus may continue even during the high energy period. The study found that those who took a break for fifteen minutes, and completely disengaged from work, could recommit 100% of their focus on their task once they re-engaged.
We see from a daily perspective how our minds and productivity are affected by too much continuous work but how about on a weekly basis? The Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, have researched the mental and physical effects of a forty plus hour work week. Below is a collection of their findings.
- Working more than 10 hours a day is associated with a 60 percent jump in risk of cardiovascular issues.
- Working more than 40 hours a week is associated with increased alcohol and tobacco consumption, as well as unhealthy weight gain in men and depression in women.
- Little productive work occurs after 50 hours per week.
- In companies with normal overtime, only 23 percent had absentee rates above 9 percent. In companies with high overtime, 54 percent had absentee rates above 9 percent.
- Individuals working 11 hours or more of overtime have an increased depression risk.
- Injury rates increase as work hours increase. Those who work 60 hours per week have a 23 percent higher injury hazard rate.
- In manufacturing industries, a 10 percent increase in overtime yields a 2.4 percent decrease in productivity.
- In white collar jobs, productivity declines by as much as 25 percent when workers put in 60 hours or more.
Working too much in one day and in one week can produce detrimental side effects to an individual’s productivity and physical well-being, but how about in a year?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that in 1976 more than 9 million Americans took vacation while in 2014 that number was down to only 7 million. According to research by the NY Times, taking a vacation every two years significantly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease as compared to taking a vacation once every six years. In addition the research suggests that workers are more productive after returning from vacation. Ernst & Young conducted a study of its employees and discovered their employees’ year-end performance ratings improved eight percent for each additional 10 hours of vacation they took and in addition those who took frequent vacations were less likely to leave the firm. Additional studies also suggest that frequent vacationers suffer less from depression and possess higher emotional levels.
For many taking a break whether it is every hour, every day, week or year, probably feels very counter- productive, but as you can see from the research above, taking one step back on the beach in your flip flops might enable you to take two steps forward in the office.
Last year the national average for filling an open position reached 29 days which was a record. Believing that recruiters are simply dragging their feet and waiting for a purple squirrel is a common assumption and true to some extent. To be fair though to recruiters and hiring managers, the number of measures that must be taken the moment a position becomes vacant needs to be considered.
- Advertise the position
- Identify acceptable candidates
- Conduct interviews
- Complete background and reference checks
- Extend an offer
- Wait for the candidate to accept the offer
When you consider all of this, 29 days doesn’t seem so long but it is! According to some statistics, top talent remains on the market for only 10 days! Additionally, during that 29 days, as the position remains open, productivity, revenue and morale drops among your employees. The solution seems simple. Speed up the hiring process! Weed out candidates with an ATS. Conduct more interviews in less time with video interviewing! Even with those measures in place, is ten days to fill a realistic goal?
Recruiting in the business world isn’t like recruiting in the sports or entertainment industry. My team has an open position at quarterback and Cam Newton is available? You’d better believe we are going after him! He’s a proven star! Carmello Anthony is a free agent and I need a forward? My VP of People Operations is calling up Carmello’s agent. My movie’s director just dropped out? Let’s see, is Scorsese Spielberg or Christopher Nolan available? No? What about Alejandro Inarritu? He’s been nominated twice in the last two years.
Within these fields top talent can easily be identified. Right from the start a short list of stars to fill the open position is formed. In the corporate world unless you are poaching executives at the “C” level from high profile companies such as Amazon, Apple or Google, most top talent is relatively unknown. You don’t know that you have a potential Steph Curry, Odell Beckham Jr., or Cate Blanchett applying for your open position. At least not from the start.
Though your job candidate’s resume may scream success up front, you certainly want more than a few days to determine the validity of their credentials. Assuming an organization is lucky enough to find their dream candidate within seven days of posting a job, recruiters are left with only three days to interview the candidate, verify references and negotiate an offer before the candidate accepts another. Careerbuilder released a survey a few years ago and the results showed that 41% of employers believed a bad hiring decision cost them upwards of $25,000 and 43% of them blamed their bad hires on a rushed hiring decision.
Organizations face a problem. Move too quickly during the hiring process and they risk hiring the wrong candidate. Move too slowly and they risk a great candidate getting away. Move slower still, 29 days slow, and they risk losing not only the good candidates but all of the rest. Hiring managers can ill afford to hold out and wait for a Steph Curry or an Adrian Peterson. As Dr. John Sullivan points out, “…it’s mostly luck if the most desirable candidates decide to enter the job market precisely when you coincidentally have a job opening.”
So can you hire a great candidate in ten days? Yes, but only if luck is on your side. Generally you shouldn’t try because your rushed hiring decision could produce a bad hire. However if you drag your feet too long waiting for the perfect candidate, your luck will turn to misfortune. That is if you believe losing revenue is unfortunate.
I recently read through two lists regarding how to raise children. “Science say parents of successful kids have these 11 things in common” and “How to Raise Happy Kids: 10 Steps Backed by Science.” “Science” was the word that most drew my attention because obviously science implies that these tips are more than just suggestions, they are backed by research.
As I scanned the list I contemplated how many of these could be applied to how we should raise our employees in the workplace. Here are a few of the following traits that parents of successful children have in common.
- They have high expectations. The Pygmalion effect states “that what one person expects of another can come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Parents who expected more of their kids had children who showed greater success on standardized testing. Could we not expect the same results when expecting more from our employees?
- They have healthy relationships with each other. Children with parents who maintain a great relationship with one another whether intact or divorced fare better than those surrounded by high conflict relationships. Managing our employees in an atmosphere of minimal conflict should produce the same effects.
- They develop a relationship with their kids. Why not reach out to your employees?
- They’re less stressed. Emotional contagion is a psychological phenomenon where feelings spread from one person to another like a cold. Stressed out managers, especially in cube farms common in many office spaces, will spread their stress like the plague.
- They value effort over avoiding failure. I once worked with a company whose owner would frequently say, “Don’t confuse effort with results!” He lost a lot of good employees! Science backs up the suggestion that we should focus on effort. Telling your employees they succeeded because of their effort teaches a “growth” mindset and as a result your workers will accept more challenges and will embrace failure as an opportunity to improve.
Happier kids are more likely to grow into successful adults and so common sense suggests that happy employees too should be more primed for success. Here are a few of the suggestions on how to raise happy kids from the article mentioned above.
- Get happy yourself! As discussed above, feelings spread. As a manager you can choose to spread good will or bad will.
- Teach them to build relationships. Your employees aren’t too old to be taught how to better interact with and encourage one another. Lead by example!
- Expect effort, not perfection. From the book, Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, “Parents who overemphasize achievement are more likely to have kids with high levels of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse compared to other kids.” Depression causes 200 million lost workdays and billions in lost productivity according to the CDC. As noted in the first set of bullet points, focusing on an employee’s efforts allows them to better embrace failure and can reduce depression.
- Teach optimism. Optimists are more successful at work, healthier and have fewer bouts of depression. Teach it and live it!
- Teach emotional intelligence. Read my post “Emotional Intelligence: Why it Trumps all other traits” and you will learn why this is the one trait to rule them all.
- Eat dinner together. Eating dinner together is great for families but while I’m not suggesting you invite your employees to your home for taco Tuesday, joining them at lunch or in the cafeteria if you have one, will help you establish healthier relationships with them.
We place a lot of emphasis on raising successful children but perhaps not enough on raising successful adults. Why not, when our success greatly hinges on the success of the people with whom we spend as much time as our children?