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Temperature Diversity

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015


Decades ago when my office was on the 35th floor of a Financial District tower in San Francisco I always had a sweater or just dressed warmly no matter the season, as did most of the women.

The cold never seemed to bother the men.

Fast forward to August 2012 when a friend emailed to say she had changed companies.

I was surprised, to say the least, since she held a senior position along with sizable stock options and I knew she would be leaving a lot on the table.

When I asked why she said it was a great opportunity, but the deciding factor had been the ambient temperature during multiple interviews — she was tired of always being cold.

Imagination? Personal idiosyncrasy?

No, actual fact, according to an article describing a new study published last week.

Finally, scientists (two men, for the record) are urging an end to the Great Arctic Office Conspiracy. Their study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, says that most office buildings set temperatures based on a decades-old formula that uses the metabolic rates of men. The study concludes that buildings should “reduce gender-discriminating bias in thermal comfort” because setting temperatures at slightly warmer levels can help combat global warming.

Just as a too warm office can slow people down and make them sleepy, so can a too cold office.

Bosses can alleviate the problem to some degree.

  • If your physical space operates by zones rearrange workers based on their temperature needs, as opposed to functional or gender lines.
  • If there is only one central control raise the temperature or at least try splitting the difference.
  • Provide snuggies, blankets and space heaters when needed.
  • Treat it as the problem it is and not as a joke or gender weakness.

While addressing the problem may have little-to-no impact on global warming, it could have a substantial impact on your talent acquisition and retention.

Flickr image credit: Lara

Ducks in a Row: the True Source of Happiness

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015


It’s been proven that the happier the workers the higher the productivity and creativeness.

So what really makes people happy?

Lawyers provide a good example, in spite of all the jokes.

Researchers who surveyed 6,200 lawyers about their jobs and health found that the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost zero correlation with happiness and well-being. However, lawyers in public-service jobs who made the least money, like public defenders or Legal Aid attorneys, were most likely to report being happy.

I wrote What People Want one week short of nine years ago and after rereading it see no reason to update it.

As research continually proves, the basic human operating system doesn’t really change.

Flickr image credit: tico_24

Employee Retention: Not Rocket Science

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015


Yesterday we looked at how a new IBM analytics tool that analyzes tweets found that customer loyalty was severely impacted by employee turnover.

A decade ago research by Frederick Reichheld found that a 5% improvement in employee retention translated to a 25%-100% gain in earnings.

Deloitte recently released its annual survey, which seems to back up the need for improved retention.

2015 Global Human Capital Trends report, their annual comprehensive study of HR, leadership, and talent challenges, the top ten talent challenges reported for 2015 are: culture and engagement, leadership, learning and development, reinventing HR, workforce on demand, performance management, HR and people analytics, simplification of work, machines as talent, and people data everywhere.

The first three are nothing new; the terms have changed over the years, although not the meaning behind them or their ranking as top concerns.

In a major employee retention push, companies are turning to algorithms and analytics to mine a raft of data, identify which employees are most likely to leave and then try to change their minds.

But some things never seem to change and until they do companies won’t make much headway.

At Credit Suisse, managers’ performance and team size turn out to be surprisingly powerful influences (emphasis added –ed.), with a spike in attrition among employees working on large teams with low-rated managers.

With decades of research saying the same thing, it makes one wonder why the finding was “surprising.”

In fact, nothing will change until companies, bosses and the media stop being surprised every time a survey shows that talent acquisition and retention is most influenced by

  • the culture in which they work;
  • the bosses for whom they work;
  • the work itself; and
  • the difference they can make.

Gee, maybe it really is rocket science.

Image credit: Steve Jurvetson

Ducks in a Row: Proof That Employee Turnover Hurts Customer Retention

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015


Back in October Twitter and IBM announced a new service to give enterprise a way to mine its 15 billion daily tweets.

Of the research done since the, one result surprised them.

The more a customer shops at a particular store or eats at a particular restaurant, the more likely they are to stop shopping there when employees leave. It stands to reason that you would get to know the people at a place you patronize often, but IBM found that really loyal customers get so attached to employees that they complain on Twitter about having to “start over” if a favorite employee leaves. If they don’t feel like employees know them, this can really impact revenue because the loyal customers are the ones who spend the most money.

Do you find that surprising? I don’t, having done the same thing myself. (I’ve also switched brands when a favorite was acquired by a company I didn’t trust.)

Cost of customer acquisition is the most critical, prime metric when valuing any business, from startup through Fortune 50.

For the last few decades the prime focus has been on investors, while customers came in a long second; IBM’s findings move customers much closer to investors.

Why employee turnover results in customer defections isn’t the least surprising.

It’s a well accepted dictum that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers — or leave because of management turnover, so customers leaving for a similar reason makes sense.

However, employees are still a long third behind investors and customers.

When I started writing this blog back in 2006 I cited research by Frederick Reichheld that proved a 5% improvement in employee retention translated to a 25%-100% gain in earnings.

You would think that a 25% earnings increase, let alone higher, would be enough to get the attention of even the greediest Wall Street types, but obviously not, since low employee turnover is still cause for amazement.

Perhaps the new Twitter/IBM findings will help drive the needed change.

Image credit: BetterWorks Breakroom

Ducks In A Row: Affordable Reward

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015


Looking for a perk or bonus for your people that won’t break the bank?

Consider paying for them to take a course that interests them at sites such as Pluralsight or Universal Class, whether career oriented or just of personal interest.

Because it’s a perk/bonus, it’s similar to providing movie tickets, i.e., while you choose the theater you don’t pick the movie.

It doesn’t matter if they want to learn a new programming language or how to make wine.

The point is it’s a reward, beyond normal compensation, for their hard work.

Yes, the classes provide them with new skills they may choose to apply elsewhere, but if they don’t have the opportunity to learn new skills, face new challenges or get bored they will leave anyway.

Providing learning opportunities won’t hasten the process; what it will do is give them reason to sing your praises as a great boss/company to work for in the event they do leave.

All of which will positively impact your street rep and improve/enhance your recruiting efforts.

Image credit: Eric Harrison

Bottom Line Rocket Science

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014


What do SAS; Warby Parker and Toms Shoes; FullContact; Petagonia have in common?

Flexibility, AKA work/life balance.

I’ve written about all of them and for the same reason—they get it.

They get that people are their most valuable asset; they get that replacing them costs far more than the cost of an ad; they get that top talent is looking for more than a fat paycheck.

Lisa Horn, who tracks workplace policies for the Society for Human Resource Management, which represents more than 200,000 members from the HR departments of companies around the world, said many businesses, which, since the Great Recession, have forced employees do more with less, are facing new realities: Millennials who value time for both work and life, and fierce competition for the most highly skilled employees who can easily jump ship for something better. “Already 87 percent of employees say flexibility and balance is important or very important in their next job. So it would behoove companies to adopt these strategies for competitive advantage.”

Companies that get it thrive and not just in the short term.

SAS has been doing it successfully since 1976; so much so that Google’s very own Larry Page and Sergy Brin visited to learn SAS’ approach.

Family-owned Patagonia has doubled in size and tripled in profits since 2008; it has 2,000 employees around the globe and minimal turnover.

A comment from TSD (10/24/2014 5:38) on the Petagonia article sums it up nicely.

I never have figured out why treating your workers well is such a hard concept for so many businesses. I work harder and faster and better when I’m happy and not terrified. Granted, I’ve never owned a business, but it seems pretty simple. Miserable workers will not be productive.

It’s not rocket science—or maybe it is.

Flickr image credit: Steve Jurvetson

Dan Amos’ Simple Sync Solution

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Dan Amos-Aflac

I said yesterday I’d provide a simple way to get back in sync with your people.

It’s not rocket science and certainly not new.

In fact, I’ve been telling managers for decades that if they want to know what someone thinks or wants to ask, instead of assuming or “figuring it out.”

They rarely listen, so I thought that if it came from Dan Amos, chairman and chief executive of Aflac, the giant insurance company it would carry more weight.

Aflac chief Amos admits his solution sounds obvious: If you want to know what would keep someone from quitting, ask. “It sounds like common sense, but not many companies really do it.”

I’ve also been saying that money is around five on most people’s list; making a difference, recognition, challenge and opportunities to learn and grow come first.

Employers often assume, Amos says, that everyone will just want more money. But most people’s wish lists are more complicated — and more realistic — than that. Amos started polling Aflac’s employees when he became CEO in 1990. The top requests: More recognition for their work and day care for their kids.

Many companies survey their people.

The difference is that Amos acts on the results of the survey—both requests were implemented — not just in the home office, but across the country (read the article).

Amos says that “the survey rules” and the proof is found in ease of recruiting and turnover numbers.

That willingness to listen has helped Aflac — the only insurance company to show up in Fortune’s Best Companies ranking for 13 years running — to successfully recruit talented women from all over the U.S. and from as far away as India.

It also, apparently, builds loyalty: Aflac’s annual employee turnover is pretty close to zero.

Flickr image credit: Aflac

Ducks in a Row: Are You in Touch with Your People?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fabioluiz/5419362401Ask most managers and they’ll tell you that they understand their team’s goals and concerns. They see themselves as in sync with their people.

But are they?

Based on a study about stress the difference in perception of cause between workers and managers is more a chasm than a rift.

But what was particularly striking about the findings was the disconnect between what employees and managers perceived: Inadequate staffing was cited by 53% of workers as the major reason for stress, while only 15% of senior managers thought this was so. A third of managers said that access to technology outside of working hours was a cause of stress, but workers disagreed, with only 8% citing it.

Disconnects between managers and workers are never good, but when the subject is something l like stress it can have a major impact on the bottom line.

Stress lowers productivity, hurts creativity and innovation, increase absenteeism, leads to health problems, thus raising health care costs

In short, stress causes and escalates disengagement.

Of those employees claiming high stress levels, 57% said they were disengaged. In contrast, just 10% with low stress levels said they were disengaged.

Obviously, being out of sync with your people costly to both your company and to you, personally.

Join me tomorrow for a look at getting back in sync and other useful information.

Flickr image credit: Fabio Luiz

Kip Tindell and The Container Store

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014


The hourly base wage for fast-food workers in Denmark is $20USD, yet McDonald’s, Burger King, etc., are still profitable.

Try to sell a minimum wage increase to just $15 and you’ll be told that it would destroy jobs and close businesses.

But, as the song goes, it ain’t necessarily so.

Despite starting out with just a $35,000 investment in 1978, The Container Store founder and CEO Kip Tindell has grown his business to one that has 67 US locations and rings up annual sales of nearly $800 million.

Equally impressive is the fact that he’s done all that while paying his retail employees nearly twice the industry average.

So what does Tindell know that other bosses of retail businesses don’t? You get what you pay for…

  • “The 1=3 rule,” i.e., one great employee is as productive as three OK employees, so he gets three times the productivity of an average worker at only two times the cost.
  • Turnover is lower substantially reducing hiring and training costs.
  • Annual raises up to 8% of their salaries, based on performance, but
  • encourages managers to evaluate employees based on their value to the company.

The result is the average Container Store retail salesperson makes nearly $50,000; about double the national average for retail.

When it comes to wages, Kip Tindell is the Twenty-first Century’s Henry Ford.

Ford astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage ($110 today), which more than doubled the rate of most of his workers. (…) The move proved extremely profitable…

The minimum wage war should become a lot more interesting when Tindell takes over as chair of the National Retail Federation.

It’s a lot harder to argue with success.

Flickr image credit: Tomer Gabel

Ducks in a Row: the Reality of Culture

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014


Washing dishes for Jeff was grueling, greasy work. But then again, making a pizza, or driving a truck, or baking a cake, or any of countless other jobs are not always enjoyable in themselves, either. Out of all the lessons I learned from that guy in the Pizza Hut tie, maybe the biggest is that any job can be the best job if you have the right boss. Danial Adkison

People work for people, not companies.

People quit people, not companies.

They accept positions because of the culture and leave when it changes.

Bosses interpret company culture; they improve or pervert it; they add/subtract/polish/tarnish it.

What bosses don’t do is pass it on intact and untouched.

Flickr image credit: Susanne Nilsson

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