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Archive for March, 2012

Expand Your Mind: the Talent Force, AKA, People

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Today we look at some interesting commentary on the state of the talent force (I positively detest the term ‘human capital’); some new and some seriously old.

Companies frequently hire from the outside based on the idea that new blood is good for the organization, but is it?

According to Wharton management professor Matthew Bidwell, “external hires” get significantly lower performance evaluations for their first two years on the job than do internal workers who are promoted into similar jobs. They also have higher exit rates, and they are paid “substantially more.” About 18% to 20% more.

Have you wondered if the job market will ever turn for more than the young tech-enabled? Maybe not quickly enough, but time does move on and demographics will not be denied.

A Human Capital Zeitgeist, is emerging as companies big and small are getting smacked with the realization that talent management is SO critical to competing in a volatile marketplace, they might actually have to throw a bit more respect at the “human” in the human capital equation.

This demographic time bomb isn’t new; it was recognized more than a decade ago, but managers’ ability to recognize, attract and retain talent has escalated dramatically, with the economic crash more like an attack of hiccups, than an actual change.

McKinsey declared the start of “the war for talent” in 1997. It has turned out to be a more or less permanent conflict. Revisiting their earlier work in 2001, the management consultants stated: “The war for talent will persist for at least the next two decades. The forces that are causing it are deep and powerful. The war for talent is a business reality.”

Do you believe that happy employees perform better? Not everyone agrees, although I freely admit I’m on the pro side of that argument.

Productivity measures across national economies have captivated the attention of policy makers and executives alike. Ultimately, though, the source of productivity is the individual knowledge workers who get things done every day. And the evidence is clear: People perform better when they’re happier. OR Happy employees tend to enjoy the status quo so much that they might resist changes to it. This is hardly a recipe for success in today’s world, where agility and embracing change are essentials for success.

Of course, no discussion of productivity can take place without including Elton Mayo and the Hawthorne Effect. Impressive experiments, since they are as relevant today as they were nearly a century ago.

What he found however was that work satisfaction depended to a large extent on the informal social pattern of the work group. … He concluded that people’s work performance is dependent on both social issues and job content.

Finally, no commentary on people and the workplace would be complete without something on the Millennials; the demographic the media and pundits keep insisting are completely different from preceding generations—but are they really?

“For the past 12 years, I have studied the so-called generation gap through empirical research, and have found that stereotypes of millennials in the workplace are inconsistent at best and destructive at worst.” ­­–Jennifer J. Deal, senior research scientist, Center for Creative Leadership

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

If the Shoe Fits: Pivot to Feel Good

Friday, March 30th, 2012

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mA Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

Pivots are the name of the game, but why would someone go from founding a commodities company in Dubai (that died when the economy crashed) to creating an e-commerce site offering merchandise from socially conscious startups supporting a wide variety of causes?

“What I was doing before was incredibly unfulfilling.”

So says Brent Freeman , founder of Roozt.

Unfulfilling.

It’s a more common sentiment than you might think.

Even when the exit is lucrative it may not be satisfying.

As someone once said to me, “My startup job made me rich, but it didn’t make me happy.”

Perhaps that’s why so many alumni from places like Microsoft and Google become socially responsible angels.

How fulfilling is your startup?

Option Sanity™  is fulfilling.

Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock allocation system.  It’s so easy a CEO can do it.

Warning.

Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.”
U
se only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Answers to Your Questions

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

I ended Tuesday’s post about micro cultures by saying, “That’s why cultural fit or, at the very least, cultural synergy, is the most important trait to look for when hiring at every level.”

The result was several phone calls and a few emails asking for specifics. I’ve offered specifics multiple times over the years, so just click the links for the answers.

But when all is said and done, the hardest part of good hiring is walking away from candidates with the right skills and the wrong attitude.

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Questions? Email or call me at 360.335.8054 Pacific Time.

Flickr image credit: Ashish

One vs. Many

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

5165975915_f3ce5eec91_nWay back in 2006 I was preaching the value of unwiring and I’ve written often on the fallacy of multitasking and the resultant diminishing productivity and creativity.

A new post at HBR is titled The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time and connects the always-on, multitasking approach to high burn-out levels in the workforce.

What we’ve lost, above all, are stopping points, finish lines and boundaries. Technology has blurred them beyond recognition. Wherever we go, our work follows us, on our digital devices, ever insistent and intrusive. It’s like an itch we can’t resist scratching, even though scratching invariably makes it worse.

Of nearly 500 comments, almost all of those I scanned were in agreement.

83% of the US population owns a cell and nearly half of them are smartphones, but there are unlikely holdouts.

Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” argues in the book that because of the brain’s neuroplasticity, Web surfing rewires people to be more adept at perfunctory multitasking, but diminishes the ability to sustain focus and think interpretatively.

It’s not just an age thing; younger users voice similar concerns.

Jim Harig, 24, a senior evaluation analyst at Ernst & Young in Chicago… Mr. Harig said he worried about distractibility and regarded most applications as time wasters instead of productivity boosters. “I don’t want to end up falling victim to the smartphone, where I dive in and get lost for hours at a time.”

There is enormous peer pressure on both topics—multitasking has become a competitive sport (watch for the first World Multitasking Championship) as have smartphones—and peer pressure is no easier to combat as an adult than it was as a teen.

However, you do have a choice and, hopefully, your choice will reflect your long-term health and success as opposed to the short-term goal of fitting in or being cool.

Flickr image credit: Lisa Risager

Ducks in a Row: Micro Cultures

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

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How many cultures does a company have?

One if you believe the articles, studies and interviews that abound, but that isn’t a very accurate picture of reality.

Cultural reality is comprised of multiple micro cultures co-existing beneath the larger corporate culture umbrella.

How many?

One for every person in any type of management or leadership (if you insist on separating them) role, formal or not.

Culture is a function of MAP; everybody’s MAP is unique and because it’s unique each person’s perception of the culture fostered by their boss is at least slightly different.

And if the perception is different their interpretation and implementation of it will also be different.

The result is micro cultures.

That’s why cultural fit or, at the very least, cultural synergy, is the most important trait to look for when hiring at every level.

Flickr image credit: h080

Is Google Evil?

Monday, March 26th, 2012

In the beginning…

“Don’t be evil” is the informal corporate motto (or slogan) of Google, originally suggested by Google employees Paul Buchheit at a meeting. Buchheit, the creator of Gmail, said he “wanted something that, once you put it in there, would be hard to take out,” adding that the slogan was “also a bit of a jab at a lot of the other companies, especially our competitors, who at the time, in our opinion, were kind of exploiting the users to some extent.”Wikipedia

Google formalized the idea by making “You can make money without doing evil” the sixth point of its 10-point corporate philosophy.

Fast forward to March, 2012

“This change [the new privacy policy] violates Google’s prior privacy policies, which deceived and misled consumers by stating that Google would not utilize information provided by a consumer in connection with his or her use of one service, with any other service, for any reason, without the user’s consent,” the three plaintiffs, represented by law firm of Grant & Eisenhofer PA, said in the filing.

Take another look at Buchheit’s words, “in our opinion, we’re kind of exploiting the users to some extent.”

I’m sure that Google, like everyone else, believes that these and similar actions aren’t exploitation, they are “improving/enhancing user experience.”

The problem, of course, is that phrases, such as ‘don’t be evil; and words like ‘ethical’ are fluid, i.e., their meaning changes in conjunction with various cultures and societal changes within each culture, so there are no absolutes to rely on. (I’ve addressed this quandary and ethical fluidity many times.)

What do you think? Does Google’s new approach to privacy violate its ‘don’t be evil’ philosophy?

Flickr image credit: opensource.com

Quotable Quotes: Adam Smith

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

20060115134422!AdamSmithI ran into the following quote from Adam Smith and thought he’d be a good subject for today’s Quotable Quotes. It’s too bad that Smith, known as the godfather of free market capitalism, doesn’t carry more weight with our bankers and politicians, although Occupy Wall Street seems to get it.

“The disposition to admire and almost worship the rich and the powerful is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”

All those bankers who have refused to provide the credit necessary for SMB to move forward might want to consider these wise words, “It is not by augmenting the capital of the country, but by rendering a greater part of that capital active and productive than would otherwise be so, that the most judicious operations of banking can increase the industry of the country.”

Sadly, the world has changed to the point where customer outrage has little to no effect, although Smith’s words still ring true for some, The real and effectual discipline which is exercised over a workman is that of his customers. It is the fear of losing their employment which restrains his frauds and corrects his negligence.”

This struck me as a great truth considering the ideologues that pass for politicians these days, “I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.
It’s not fair to bash bankers and pols and let the corporate world off Smith’s hook, so here’s one just for them, “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.”

Conspicuous consumption was out of style, or at least underground, after the 2008 crash, but is back in full force now proving that Smith understood exactly what drives them, With the greater part of rich people, the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches.”

Finally, the so-called 1% would do well to remember this, “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.”

Image credit: Wikipedia

Expand Your Mind: What’s with That?

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to entrepreneurs and innovation isn’t always what it seems.

How rich should you get for creating software that changed the world? Linus Torvalds created Linux and the open source revolution, which got him around a million dollars and an incredibly cool job.

Does he have any regrets? “Not at all,” he says. “Quite the opposite, actually. I’m very happy with feeling that I’ve done the right thing.” He adds: “I mean, if I’d started a company, that wouldn’t have been because I wanted to start a company. I concentrated on the technical side because that’s what I wanted to do.”

Entrepreneurs of all types are hyped as the solution to every country’s economic ills, so you might assume that the more dire the economy the more a government would facilitate startups—but you would be wrong. Consider Greece, which needs all the help it can get…

It took him 10 months — crisscrossing the city to collect dozens of forms and stamps of approval, including proof that he was up to date on his pension contributions — before he could get started. But even that was not enough. In perhaps the strangest twist of all, his board members were required by the Health Department to submit lung X-rays — and stool samples — since this was a food company.

Are you a sucker for kitchen gadgets designed to do one thing? I admit I succumb on occasion to their cool allure and the usefulness they seem to offer—if only that vision translated to my reality.

Just as often, the buyer is to blame, a victim of unrealistic expectations. The kitchen can be a realm of fantasy, after all, and even seasoned professionals can be seduced by a sexy piece of equipment, especially if it has an exotic accent.

For all the talk about the importance of marriage to long-term happiness and health it gets shorter-term all the time. Enter a couple of single entrepreneurs who believe they have the answer to keeping the romance, and therefore the marriage, alive.

Later this year, Mr. Schechter and Mr. Schildkrout will release their answer to these questions: a new dating portal focused on committed couples. It will seek to get them out of their routines, off their feet and on the town for frequent dates.

Everything is social these days and everyone seems to think that peer opinions are the ones that really count. I often ask one or two trusted friends what they think, but I’m not all that interested in sites like Yelp, because the posting are not only strangers, but also anonymous, unlike Angie’s List. But it would be a cold day in hell before I’d use this newest social site.

So that’s what MeARKET does. When you sign up, you enter the stocks that you own. Then you’re connected with your Facebook and LinkedIn friends, you can see their portfolios, and as they buy and sell, you get updated.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

If the Shoe Fits: Channeling the Jets or the Giants

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mBy now, everybody knows that the Jets management turned itself into a pretzel and spent big money to acquire Tim Tebow from the Broncos.

Notice I didn’t say “add him to the team,” because from what I read there is no team, just a series of “splashy acquisitions.”

That’s the difference between the Jets and the Giants.

…championship teams are built, not bought, not bartered. … The Jets have yet to learn what the Giants already know: championship teams are built, not bought, not bartered. The Jets lacked two important elements last season: roster depth and locker room cohesion. They built their roster as if playing fantasy football, certain Coach Rex Ryan could glean character from a locker room full of characters. But when this grand chemistry experiment blew up the Jets’ laboratory, with players arguing in the huddle and on the field, Ryan acted shocked.

Last year I wrote Insanely Smart Retention and Stars (the third in a series; it contains links to the first two, Insanely Stupid Hiring and Insanely Smart Hiring) and last fall I posted the story of what happens when a founder sets out to hire a star.

In one form or another I and others have been warning that hiring stars is an iffy business and your energy is better spent building and maintaining an all-star team.

So which is your company channeling?

The Jets or the Giants?

Option Sanity™ is a team-builder.

Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock process.  It’s so easy a CEO can do it.

Warning.

Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.” Use only as directed.

Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Your Comfort Zone

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Part of the allure of starting a company is the idea of being your own boss and creating the kind of place in which you always wanted to work.

That’s what drives Tony Hsieh and thousands of others.

The problem is that in order to accomplish that goal you will have to go far beyond your comfort zone; much further, in fact, than you would working for someone else.

I just started working with “Tomas,” a new founder, and during our first conversation he described himself as an introvert who preferred not to respond to questions or comment until he had time to process the conversation/information.

OK, it’s frustrating and makes conversations very one-way, but I bided my time to see what the impact would be.

It didn’t take long to find out.

First, I sent an introduction to “Bill” who was willing to share expertise that Tomas badly needed; Bill responded immediately, asking when Tomas was available, but Tomas didn’t write back.

The next day Bill went ahead and called, although he hadn’t heard back. His feedback to me was that it was a non-conversation and he thought he might even have offended Tomas in some way.

None of this made sense to me. I had spoken to Tomas the evening of the day he got Bill’s response and he said he would respond to is as soon as our call ended.

We talked again yesterday. When I asked why he hadn’t sent the email when he said he would he said that he hadn’t had time to “craft the email.”

There was more and after hearing him out I told him the problem (as I saw it) was that along with being an introvert he is a perfectionist and doesn’t want to make a move until he is sure he is right. He also prefers to proceed linearly.

Tomas’ response? He said I knew him well.

I told Tomas that as an entrepreneur he will have to get out of his comfort zone.

He will not always have the luxury of a day or more to process conversations or craft perfect emails.

He needs to practice thinking and responding on the fly—especially on the small stuff.

I said that he will make mistakes and that’s OK; they can be corrected.

Tomas’ vision is brilliant; it solves a problem faced by millions and holds the promise of making their lives better.

I will do everything I can to help Tomas succeed, but only he can choose to leave his comfort zone.

Image credit: JJ Chandler.com

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